Reading Frenzy

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

In this stunning memoir, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith tells of growing up in the 1950's in a working class, French-Italian family in Hartford, Connecticut, characterized by the first line: "Here is how my father describes our socioeconomic level: Working Stiffs."

In the 1950's in Hartford, life was not always easy for Mary-Ann. Her older brother, Tyler is autistic and an idiot savant, neither of which were defined or understood. All they knew was that he was crazy and self-destructive, and much of his care fell to dad. Mom, who barely held onto her own sanity, worked outside the home and found other pursuits to keep her away. The household had to be kept quiet or Tyler would fall into rages and begin chewing his wrists.

Life takes a pivitol turn when Mary-Ann is in fifth grade. A classmate is sexually assaulted and murdered by a serial predator in their neighborhood, and as was so common in the fifties, the crime was swept under the carpet by worried parents and not allowed to be spoken of by anyone, including their teachers. In stark contrast to today, there were no grief counselors, no explanations, and no healing process, and Mary-Ann buried the murder and loss of her friend along with part of her childhood years. Later, a college professor, and then the murdered girl's brother are instrumental in Mary-Ann's decision to write this memoir and find justice for Irene. Highly recommended--this is going to go down as one of my favorites.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

For Whom the Minivan Rolls

by Jeffrey Cohen and

Rattled by Debra Galant

Who knew there was so much going on in the New Jersey suburbs? Lots in common in these two books, stay at home parents thrown into sleuthing roles, quirky characters, crooked businessmen--and women, and my favorite parts of each book- sons with interesting ISSUES. Good starts for both these first time novelists.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Night by Elie Wiesel

What is there to say? Except that everyone should take the time to read, or better yet, listen to this. It should be required reading for every high school student.

"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. and anyone who does not remember betrays them again. "

"A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent. "

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. "

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. "

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference. "

"I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason. "

----- Elie Wiesel

Wise words from a man who truly knows about indifference, hate, life and death, and faith.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Culinary Catastrophes

Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Cooks and Chefs

Disasters with food, with fellow chefs, with waiters, with owners, not to mention disasters with customers--this book probably covers it all. If I'd read it before our last dining fiasco, when we noticed the waitresses were all huddled in the corner whispering and none of the customers had been served although we'd all been sitting for over an hour, we might have been spared a bad meal and an ultimate confession that there'd been a kitchen fire and the chef had been burned--because we would have recognized some of the signs of "culinary castrophes" and hightailed it out the door.

My personal favorite was the vignette by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's entitled "Our Big Brake." The Two Hot Tamales chefs were en route, in Los Angeles, in rush hour, with buckets of hollandaise in the rear of their very old, very grubby Datson station wagon to a benefit dinner when a car ran a stop sign and they were forced to brake, quickly --

"We heard the unmistakable spash of 10 gallons of hot buttery emulsion being deposited in the disgusting, fish-scented foot wells behind us. Some of the sauce seeped through the space between our seat backs and seats, catching us on the rear, and as the warm hollandaise soaked through to our butts, we looked at each other in horror: "Oh. My. God."

And it gets worse.......Fun and entertaining read, especially if you're a foodie.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mark Twain Library

This morning I set off to find the bucolic little town of Redding, Connecticut for an ILL library meeting at the Mark Twain Library. Aside from picking up some great tips, one of the librarians gave us the grand tour and history of this beautiful little library and enticed us with items from the Mark Twain Library Store. She also gave us the history of the library:

The last few years of his life, Mark Twain was living a rather lonely life in NYC and his publisher sent biographer Albert Bigelow Paine to spend time with him, gathering information for a book. Paine and Twain, no rhyme intended, became fast friends, and Paine told Twain he needed to get out of the city and move to the country--and talked him into moving to Redding, Connecticut where Paine himself lived with his wife and children. Twain wouldn't move until the
house was built and furnished down to a cat in a basket on the hearth, and the day he finally came to Redding all the townspeople came down to the train station to meet this famous author and welcome him. The home was on several acres on a hilltop that looked all the way to Long Island Sound.

Twain wasn't happy that there was no library, so he began giving talks, collecting money for that purpose and donated his personal library to the town--a small chapel on a dirt road was the first library. Later, in memory of his daughter,
Jean, he donated funds for the building of a permanent library and it was originally named after her.

Today, the original part of the library holds cases of the original collection no longer lent out but available to scholars and others. Much of the library is circular, and many of Twain's famous quotations are muraled at the tops of the walls. Beautiful original stone pillars are in the entry way. And, as an added bonus, there was a gorgeous display of hooked rugs hung throughout the library. All in all, a lovely way to spend the morning

One of the quotations on the walls of The Mark Twain Library:

"My works are like water, the works of the great masters are like wine, but everyone drinks water."