Friday, October 26, 2012

On Celestial Music by Rick Moody

Cover imagePrior to reading Rick Moody’s essay collection On Celestial Music: and Other Adventures in Listening, I was most familiar with his novel The Ice Storm. I wasn’t particularly fond of that novel, and it is one of the few cases where I liked the movie version better than the book. That experience with Moody’s fiction as well as the rather pretentious title of this collection didn’t get my hopes up too high, but I knew I had to at least give a chance to a collection of essays that covered acts as diverse as classic rock staple The Who and jazz barrier breakers the Lounge Lizards.
I’m definitely glad I gave this book a chance. Moody writes skillfully about a memorable Lounge Lizards concert, capturing both what the band was doing on stage and what the feeling was like in the audience. The strongest essay is probably “Guilty Pleasures,” which discusses a meeting of a record club the author belongs to where each member decided to bring two songs he or she considered guilty pleasures. He talks about the embarrassment in having to not only admit to liking but having to play a song by his two picks—Frank Zappa and Jethro Tull. (Although he only gives their initials, Moody notes that several prominent writers, in addition to himself, and a well-known painter are in his record club, thus making it potentially embarrassing to share any songs let alone ones he is guilty about liking.) The common occurrence of guilty pleasure music eventually becoming hip again is also explored in the essay as Moody talks about how the progressive rock elements of Zappa and the quiet acoustic music of the Jethro Tull song he shared were starting to come back in vogue. The essay was written in 2005 and his argument seems even truer now with acts like Grizzly Bear and The Decemberists having critical and commercial success.
In a digital age where most any song can be accessed via YouTube it may seem pointless to write about music anymore, but Moody’s insights show that it is still a very worthwhile endeavor.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Cover imageThe Age of Miracles is a very unique novel. Clearly written for adults but with a very teen-like theme, it is the story of Julia, a typical California middle-schooler who is about to experience the biggest catastrophe the world has ever seen. The earth's rotation has changed, and scientists are calling this period "the slowing". Gravity has been altered, and this causes devastation all over. Each day, the 24-hour-day is just a little longer. At first, it is just a few minutes. But eventually, it becomes longer. And longer. The sun is getting stronger. And hotter. The food supply is in trouble. Plants are in trouble. The birds are all dying. Whales are beaching themselves. And all 11-year-old Julia and her family can do is try and cope. And hope.


Read-alike: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Cover imageNever in a million years would I have picked The Kitchen Daughter off the shelf to read, but luckily one of our patrons (thank you Patty!) told me that this was one of the best books she had ever read. Since I know that she is quite the reader, I jumped on her recommendation and am so glad I did. This is the story of Ginny, who recently lost both her parents in an accident and is now living alone. Ginny has been sheltered her whole life because, well, Ginny is different. She cannot look strangers in the eye, she does not like to be touched, and hides in closets when nervous. Ginny has a sister that is very worried about her, and wants Ginny to move in with her and her family and sell the house. But Ginny just wants to be left alone and cook. You see, cooking is Ginny's coping mechanism and calming method. Ginny is doing a lot of cooking these days, and just imagine how Ginny feels when, after making one of her beloved grandmother's recipes, her Nonna shows up in her kitchen!

Not only is this a sad, sweet story, but many of the chapters begin with some great recipes.


Read-alike: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (but not as sad!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Cover imageSeating Arrangements is one of those novels that you pick up because it sounds good for one reason but turns out to be something totally different (but still good!). I originally thought this was going to be a story about the chaos of getting ready for a wedding, and although it is, it is so much more. The novels centers around the father of the bride, Winn Van Meter. Winn is one of these self-assured, totally in control types. Of course, we all know when it comes to wedding preparation, this is not a good fit. He is totally out of his element as his daughter, his wife, his younger daughter, the wedding planner, the fiance, and a host of other family members and friends descend on his home on a New England island. Everyone has their own secrets and problems to deal with, and Winn must confront his own faults. Although the entire novel takes place in just one weekend, you really get a feel for this family. Well done for a first novel!


Read alike: The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer