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Staff Reads — December 24, 2016

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Welcome to a special holiday edition of Staff Reads!
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Tory:

Luke’s Favorite Albums of the Year (at least the ones I got to listen to that I can remember off the top of my head)

  1. Solange – A Seat at the Table
  2. David Bowie – Blackstar
  3. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  4. Mitski – Puberty 2
  5. Frank Ocean – Blonde
  6. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
  7. Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth
  8. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!

Marie

Jan:

  • I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This is billed as similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” but, unfortunately, I think it pales terribly next to that masterpiece. It is very rare indeed that I don’t finish a book once started, but this may have been one of those, if not for wanting to finish it for this review. Sadly, I found very little to like about this book: it was plodding; confusing in the use of multiple narrators and time frames; depressing in its themes, and gory. I don’t remember any humor at all in it, and honestly, why spend precious free time reading something not enjoyable. Perhaps the movie rendition is more agreeable, but someone else will have to find that out for himself!
  • A much more likable read was Maggie Smith: A Biography by Michael Coveney. This takes you through Dame Smith’s long and varied acting career, with many surprises along the way: Shakespeare in London with Olivier; Broadway (Lettice and Lovage); Hollywood (First Wives’ Club); back to London (Gosford Park). But, of course, there’s nearly a whole chapter on Downton Abbey, the classic that everyone recognizes. Enjoy the goodies here and much more!

Gerry C:

  • Currently listening to Harlan Coben’s newest Mickey Bolitar mystery, Home. Coben is my favorite mystery/thriller author and he never disappoints. So far I am enjoying this book.
  • I have always loved Louisa May Alcott so decided to rewatch Little Women and watch for the first time Little Men the continuing story of Jo and the trials and tribulations of running a school for boys (then girls).
  • Listening to the mystery The Couple Next Door. A baby is kidnapped and the parents are suspected or was it someone else??
  • Listened and enjoyed Michael Buble’s newest CD, Nobody But Me.
  • Watched Three Coins In the Fountain since I visited the Trevi Fountain on my recent trip to Italy.
  • Money Monster with George Clooney and Julie Roberts. I like this movie very much.
  • Listened to Now You See Her by Joy Fielding. First book I have read by Joy Fielding and did not like the main character.
  • Listed to The Last Painting of Sara De Vos. I really enjoyed this book.
  • Tried to listen to The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close but found I didn’t care about any of the characters or what was happening to them.
  • Listened to Barbra Streisand’ newest CD Encore – Movie Partners Sing Broadway. I was very disappointed in the people she chose to sing with.

Todd:

  • Watched:Don’t Breathe: One of the best scary movies that I’ve seen all year. I’d say it is more thriller than horror. Regardless, I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie.
  • Played: Resident Evil 6 for PlayStation 4: Not the best Resident Evil game, but it is pretty fun and slightly creepy.
  • Read: My Damage : The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor by Keith Morris – Keith Morris was the first singer for Black Flag and went on to a bunch of different bands, most recently Off! This is the story of his life. While his life is interesting, the book needs to focus on the details of some of the events to bring the reader more into some of the scenes from Morris’s life.
  • Listened: Resolutions by Dave Hause – Hause was the singer of the Loved Ones. He is one of the few punk singers with an amazing voice.
  • Cooked: Everyday Harumi : Simple Japanese Food for Family & Friends by Harumi Kurihara – This is such a great cookbook. It has many simple & delicious Japanese recipes. In the past few weeks, I made five dishes from this book and they were all very tasty!

Laura:

  • The Martian by Andy Weir: For those of you like me who somehow missed the hype surrounding the Matt Damon adaptation of this novel, this is a story set in the not so distant future of astronaut, Mark Watney, who becomes stranded on Mars after the first Mars expedition goes terribly wrong. This novel is mainly written in epistolary form using Mark’s witty and sarcastic journal entries, with some third person points of view from the members of Mark’s crew and the various people on Earth working to rescue him. The use of science as Mark uses his botany and physics knowledge in order to survive is fascinating and even accessible to the science neophyte. Secondary characters are not well drawn and their points of view are often the weakest parts of the novel. Aside from that flaw, this thrilling and witty novel is a quick read for a holiday vacation!
  • Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor: This gripping and gritty memoir tells the story of Shaka Senghor, an African-American man went to prison for second degree murder at 19 years old. After his 19 year prison stay (which included seven off/on years in solitary confinement), Senghor became an advocate for prison reform and a mentor to African-American youth. The memoir fluctuates back and forth between Senghor’s prison term and his teenage years on the streets and is filled with descriptive detail. The book focuses on the harrowing conditions of prisons and statistics regarding the number of African-American men in prisons and Senghor takes responsibility for his choices and, surprisingly, does not come across as bitter for his experience. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Senghor speak as a member of the panel, “Injustice, Incarceration, Invisibility” at the Boston Book Festival which led me to his book.
  • Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong: Feeling in the mood for something light, last month, I picked up this book about the history of Seinfeld. Seinfeld is one of those television shows that glorified the mundane and made us viewers like four extremely unlikable people, and I admit they still make me laugh. (Well, Jerry, George, and Elaine still make me laugh. Kramer was best in small doses). This history relies, mainly, on interviews with a lot of the show’s writers, and it was fun and interesting to read that the majority of the story lines came from actual events in the writers’ lives. Festivus, for example, was a holiday invented by the father of Seinfeld writer, Dan O’Keefe. One of the main differences, however, is that the holiday was not celebrated near Christmas, but the O’Keefe family did air their grievances every Festivus! For Seinfeld fans, this was a great way to relive the show.
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling read by the author: I can’t do this book justice by explaining how much I’m enjoying it. Kaling (a native of Boston!), a comedy actress and writer late of The Office and currently of The Mindy Project muses on a variety of topics including the weirdness of the concept of bridesmaids, the importance of female friendships, and what it’s like being somewhat famous. Kaling adequately maintains the happy medium of being down to earth while also still admitting that she has opportunities afforded to her that are not available to others who are not celebrities. A lot of movie star memoirs either pretend as if their life is just like yours or name drop every other sentence. Kaling doesn’t do either and I’m really appreciating it.

Jeanette:

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