The Sun Still Rises

“I met the devil,' Ernest said, finishing his glass of wine, 'and he doesn't give a damn about art.’” 

I have two things in common with Ernest Hemingway: I also believe books are friends and I too love to sleep. Three, if you count liking to write. I knew next to nothing about the man before I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Scratch that, I knew he was a manly man; my college professor used the term misogynist, but maybe that’s a bit of a harsh stereotype? At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the American bohemian. 

 The Paris Wife is, for the most part, a love story. At 20, Hem is drawn to an older woman, Hadley Richardson, who is both pretty and practical. Hadley finds a home in Ernest. When they join the Lost Generation in Paris, their lives feel sensationalized. Their golden marriage seems indestructible. McLain’s story proved fascinating—it revealed a much softer side of a man referred to as “hypermasculine”; a man who was not afraid to admit, “I wished I had died before I loved anyone but her…I loved her and I loved no one else and we had a lovely magic time when we were alone.”

Posted by Tracy

Mini-Review Monday

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

 If I didn’t know better, I’d think my mom paid my sister to recommend William McRaven’s inspiring commencement address, with over 14 million You Tube views, turned self-help book. My mother can school Navy Seals in pristine bed making with her eyes closed. And while she’d never think me a disappointment, I’m sure she secretly cringes knowing I don’t make my bed regularly. Sorry mom. I am happy to report I’ve made it daily since the Admiral divulged he witnessed Sadam Hussein’s covers crumpled at the end of his cot every morning. Has it changed the world? Not yet, but it does make me feel better to come home to a little bit of order. McRaven’s perspective is his genius. Advice like “you cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others” is worth a king’s ransom. I’ll most definitely return to this cache of wisdom. 

If you’re thinking I’m confused as to what the word mini means, let me prove otherwise. Neil Gaiman is fast becoming a fave of mine. He’s a wholly engaging author and a freakishly good narrator. I whizzed through The Ocean at the End of the Lane audible. I’m happy to echo this praise: “Worthy of a sleepless night…a fairy tale for adults that explores both innocence lost and the enthusiasm for seeing what’s past one’s proverbial fence. Gaiman is a master of creating worlds just a step to the left of our own.” Tbh, I would have left it at Gaiman is a master. 

Posted by Tracy

The Case Of The Sulky Girl

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn't her fault she'd been alone. Most of what she knew, she'd learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

Here’s a negligible fact about me: I love Perry Mason.  I’m not even sixty and I don’t need Depends (knock on wood)—I just love a little mystery. Throw in a noir lawyer with hypnotic eyes, intrigue, alliterative titles, and a loyal secretary named Della Street who invented savvy and I’m in.  All in. When I researched what to read next, I didn’t realize Where the Crawdads Sing would feel a little mysterioso. I sailed through this audible, returned to it for even 5 minutes at a time, because it was a captivating listen. 

Delia Owens’ impressive debut novel revolves around a young girl named Kya Clark who was abandoned by her family at an uncomfortably young age. Truth is, she shouldn’t have survived living in the untamed marshes outside of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Immersed in the natural world, Kya finds company in the gulls. Love draws her out of a tight shell. And exposes her to another world that seems far less safe than the wild. I agree with the reviewer who said Where the Crawdads Sing is “a painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature.” Unlike Perry’s right-hand man, Paul Drake, I do know what I like. And I loved this one! 

P.S. Rachel is my witness, I discovered this ear thrill BEFORE Reese named it her September pick. Why did I feel the need to say that? 

Posted by Tracy

Six Fall Releases We're Excited About

A good book is an event in my life. —Stendhal

Ditto, Stendhal. And from the look of these upcoming releases, I've got several events in my near future. Here's a sneak peek at the books I'm most excited for this fall:

10/9

I'm both excited and worried about this one. Here's hoping Zusak has two classics in him. Read Tray's review of The Book Thief here.

11/27

I'd like to say this is perfectly timed for someone to wrap up and put under the tree for me, but who am I kidding? I've got a date with Inspector Gamache at midnight on November 26th and not one minute later. Read more about my obsession with this series here and here.  

9/18

Written in response to the refugee crisis and the haunting image of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed upon the beach in Turkey in September 2015, this is said to be a beautiful and heartrending read. We wouldn't expect anything less from Khaled Hosseini. It's an illustrated short story for all ages and it couldn't be more timely.

10/9

When Stephen King calls your prose "incandescent" and Maureen Corrigan says you're "a poet of mood and a master builder of plots," we take notice. A few weeks before Halloween is the perfect release date for a book guaranteed to frighten us out of our wits.

10/9

Kate Morton fans rejoice! Does this woman ever sleep? In 12 years she's managed to write 6 books, including this one, and so far they've all been best-sellers. And she's only 42, people. Here's hoping this book continues her string of winners.

10/30

First of all, it's Justin Timberlake. And second, that title. Perfection. Tray and I are hoping to snag tickets to his concert in Arizona the first of December—looks like we'll be set for reading material for the trip.

Posted by Rachel

Blessed Are The Stonecatchers

"Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done."

A good nonfiction is indeed hard to find. Even harder? One that permeates our sheltered lives and upends our worldview. If there was a required reading list for life, Just Mercy would be on it. Bryan Stevenson shines an unadulterated light on the destructive effects of mass incarceration, a broken judicial system, and the devastating consequences when we reduce the worth of a human soul to "the worst thing [they've] ever done." This book feels like a clarion call—one that pleads, as Maya Angelou once said, "when you know better, do better."

At the heart of this story is one of Stevenson's first cases: Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn't commit. During the hearing, Stevenson found there were some in McMillian's own African American community whose support was muted—not because they didn't believe in his innocence, but because he'd had an extra-marital affair and wasn't active in the church. When asked to speak at a regional church meeting about the case, he reminded them that when the woman charged with adultery was brought before Christ, he told those who wanted to stone her to death, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Her accusers retreated and Christ forgave her and urged her to sin no more. Stevenson continued, "But today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion....we can't simply watch that happen....we have to be stonecatchers."

John Grisham wrote: “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God’s work fighting for the the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope.” Blessed are the stonecatchers.

P.S. For concrete ways on how we too can be stonecatchers, visit Stevenson's website here.

Posted by Rachel

Good Non-Fiction is Hard to Find

“All the World Loves a Baby.”

I picked up a copy of Real Simple’s latest because the cover seduced me with this promise: “More Free Time: Shortcuts That Give You Back Hours.”  Sadly, I haven’t had time to read it. Extra hours are in short supply these days, so I chose a non-fiction quickie—not my normal M.O. when it comes to picking a winner. I researched for a brisk minute. Read some positive reviews about The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. My interest was piqued. I downloaded Dawn Raffel’s true story about a kind-hearted doctor, ahead of his time, who revolutionized neonatal care. 

Rachel may have said it best: a good non-fiction is hard to find. I was interested to learn about the flamboyant turn-of-the-century world fairs and the entrepreneur/uncertified doctor who saved thousands of premature babies as a side-show. Couney’s work was both advanced and inspired, although often discredited by the medical establishment. His success rate of saving what many viewed as undesirable babies hardly worth saving was remarkable, as are the stories of “his babies” that should have, a vrai dire, died. But the story sometimes bounced around too much. Raffel is a good writer; she displayed some great descriptive moments. At times, she shared insignificant details that undid Couney’s story some.  Am I glad I read it? Yes. I did, however, walk away from glittering Coney Island with an even greater appreciation for authors like Hillenbrand and Brown who tell us the truth and craft stories that, like babies, all the world loves. 

P.S. If you’re craving non-fiction, this list looks on the level.

 Dr. Couney

Dr. Couney

Weekly Wrap-Up

Do you suppose it's possible for us to already belong to someone before we've met them? —Juliet Ashton
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WHAT WE LOVE THIS WEEK

Guernsey on Netflix. Forgive us for still swooning. We may or may not have watched the manuscript/letter scene multiple times and counting. Between that and having just read Dear Mrs. Bird, we're awash in British adoration. Wouldn't it be lovely, dear readers, if we could all go to Guernsey and London together? Perhaps it's time we started Tours with Two at Twenty-Seven—who's in? We'll keep you posted on tour dates and destinations. Don't think we don't mean it. To tide you over, we thought we'd shower you with a little love from the other side of the pond. 

Swoon

Be still our London-loving hearts.

Cheerio Chap

We'd welcome this fella in our house anytime.

Shakespeare in Love

When it comes to wedding/anniversary gifts, it's hard to top the Bard.

A Lovely Frock

Johnnie never disappoints.

Ardent Adoration

Union Jack never looked so good.

Cup Cake Toppers

Someone throw us a party with these STAT.

Winston for the Win

We do love our Winnie.

Book Bag Upgrade

Happy books, happy reader.

London, Baby

Start 'em young.