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D. N. Stone "the_stern_librarian" RSS Feed (New York, New York)
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Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party (Kindle Single) (A Vintage Short)
Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party (Kindle Single) (A Vintage Short)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than two slices of cake, August 13, 2014
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I loved this latest outing from my favorite cozy author. This is a sort of modern take on the classic Henry James plot of a naive American facing the wiles of sophisticated Europeans. Unlike the Ambassadors, however, this novel is riotously funny. Fatty's mishaps in Ireland are hilarious and, although they are caused by his weight, we don't mind laughing, because he is so comfortable in his own skin and content with his enviable life. Besides we all like chocolate, don't we. The story could have lingered longer in Ireland for my tastes, and I hope McCall Smith sends Fatty and Betty on another vacation soon. The tone reminded me a bit of Downtown Abbey. There is a courteous lord and the villain is even named O'Brien. As usual, McCall Smith's quirky dialogue and strongly ethical interior monologues elevate light material to something deeply moral and humane.


Jackie Old: A tale of the future told in the past (Kindle Single)
Jackie Old: A tale of the future told in the past (Kindle Single)
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jackie Under Our Skin, May 17, 2014
It is 1999 and John John is First Lady of San Francisco, married to Mayor Jade Jagger Kennedy. Truman Capote has found religion and is desperately trying to convince his swan Jackie that Catholics can be born again. And poor Jackie has inherited the Little Edie gene and is a recluse living with fourteen cats. But before you can say "staunch", Jackie is whisked to San Francisco for her biggest historical moment since Paris in an encounter with her gay fans that would make Wayne Koestenbaum weep. This speculative novella was written by Maupin in 1980 and has just been republished. He may not have been able to predict the future but he was right about one thing. We will always love and need Jackie, John John and Tru.


A History of Chowder:Four Centuries of a New England Meal (NE)
A History of Chowder:Four Centuries of a New England Meal (NE)
by Robert S. Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.82
37 used & new from $0.41

5.0 out of 5 stars "Chowder is a sea swell of the soul", October 19, 2013
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What a nifty little history. This book is certain to be the last word on chowder (not just clam) for years to come. The authors strike a good balance between rhapsodic and scholarly. If you're looking for the origins of the word chowder, the first recipes, literary references to chowder or the fraught histories of the constituent ingredients, you'll find it here. How I long to have lived in the days of the great chowder parties described here, when chowder masters strode New England like demigods. I also loved the artistic photos throughout the book. Chowder has never looked so beautiful than posed here in a beach in a Le Creuset pot at dusk . My only complaint is the faint hostility toward tomato in chowder. The authors say it began "littering stewpots" in southern New England in the 1870s. Here in a Rhode Island we like clear, tomato and milk chowders all alike, although the authors say we are too small a state for so many options. But it's all in fun when it comes to opinions about what the authors call "this most social dish." This most superb book deserves a wide readership.


The Burgess Boys: A Novel
The Burgess Boys: A Novel
by Elizabeth Strout
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.09
333 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Cabot Cove, April 7, 2013
I loved the prologue...why don't we ever hear about this mother and daughter again? They seem like more fun, gossipy company than this Burgess family we spend the next 300 pages with. Let me mention what I found a little tedious before saying what I liked in this novel. First, the descriptions of the seasons that open so many of the chapters felt labored and self consciously showy. The depiction of the life of a celebrity lawyer and his perfect New York life was not very convincing or compelling. Whenever the novel returned to Maine, however, I couldn't stop turning the pages. Every once in a while a passage took my breath away, coupling utter truth with beauty of expression. But there was also a surprising amount of pedestrian description. In the end, it is the elderly character of Mrs. Drinkwater, the upstairs lodger who, while occupying only a few pages of the novel, captivated me with the oddness and sadness of her life, just as the characters in Olive Kitteridge did.


Cornbread (Kindle Single)
Cornbread (Kindle Single)
Price: $0.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just enough buttermilk, March 22, 2013
Imagine the song Cell Block Tango ( He Had It Comin') from the musical Chicago as a short story and you'll have a good idea of what Cornbread is. It's a monologue from a woman shoots her husband with an antique rifle. Why? He insulted her cornbread. This southern story grabbed me immediately and reminded me of The Help. I'd love to see it expanded into a novel. Now if I could just get that cornbread recipe maybe we could discuss an appeal.


Inside Dan Brown's Inferno
Inside Dan Brown's Inferno
Price: $2.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Wish I Could Give It 33 Stars, March 20, 2013
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It takes some verve to write a primer to a book whose contents are still a mystery. But, improbably, I think the author has managed it. I read this book just after reading the prologue and chapter one of Inferno that have been released as pre-publication teasers with the free ebook of The DaVinci Code. Already, "The Ultimate Primer" has been helpful. For example, Langdon's hospital dream about legs and feet sticking out of the ground is apparently a reference to the Eighth Circle of Hell in the Inferno, a section reserved for "Simonists" (those who peddle in spiritual things), whose feet are scorced by the flames instead of balmed by the Holy Spirit.

The author is our personal Virgil, guiding us around Dante's Inferno. He also predicts that Dan Brown will make something of the fact that Dante is associated with a secret tradition of worshipping the sacred feminine. Sure enough, in both the prologue and Chapter 1 of Inferno, there is a mysterious Beatrice figure who appears to both the pursued man (Dante?) and Langdon.

Apparently Dan Brown has been leaving clues and puzzles on his Facebook page and website, and the author nimbly solves these and speculates how they may figure into Inferno. My favorite such puzzle is "Tarty Sect". As a Yale grad, I really hope that the author is corrrect that Dan Brown will incorporate The Voynich Manuscript "MS 408 Yale Library", the world's most enigmatic document, located at Yale's Beinecke Library.

As someone who loves (and has written about) Florence, I am most excited to read Inferno to see which landmarks of Firenze make it into the novel. My favorite part of "The Ultimate Primer" is the section in which the author describes some of the major contenders for inclusion. He even includes a handy map of Florence. My only complaint is that I might have added the church where Dante first laid eyes on his beloved Beatrice.

I was pleasantly surprised at this book. It is smoothly and intelligently written and the author clearly has great respect for Dan Brown (and his fans). It stands alone as a primer on Dante and Florence and I would recommend it for travelers to Italy. Ultimately, however, I suspect it will be a fun appetizer for those counting down the days to 5-14-13 and an essential resource for those who want to delve more deeply into the world of Dan Brown's Inferno once they finish reading the novel.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2013 12:37 PM PDT


The Sinking of the Bounty: The True Story of a Tragic Shipwreck and its Aftermath (Kindle Single)
The Sinking of the Bounty: The True Story of a Tragic Shipwreck and its Aftermath (Kindle Single)
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Superstory, March 17, 2013
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The conventional wisdom about ships being better off at sea during a hurricane will forever be questioned after what happened to the tall ship Bounty. This book will convince you the crew will be safer at home. The author does a great job at putting us on the scene the night the Bounty sank. There are descriptions about masts collapsing, miles of demonic ropes cluttering the sea and stomachs full of diesel and salt water that will turn even an old salt into a landlubber. This is also a remarkable story of The Coast Guard, which was on the scene even before the crew began jumping into the sea. Should the order to evacuate ship have come earlier? The author is savvy enough to pose that question, but even handed enough not to offer conclusions about the executive decisions made by the Captain. One thing is for certain, no ship should ever be called the Bounty again.


Dark Places: A Novel
Dark Places: A Novel
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.41
255 used & new from $3.72

5.0 out of 5 stars An American Tragedy, February 10, 2013
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This review is from: Dark Places: A Novel (Paperback)
A riveting read for a housebound snowy weekend. In some ways, I liked this more than Gone Girl. There is a real mystery for starters, which I wasn't even close to solving. And the misfortunes of the Day family really moved me. The prose and structure isn't as "amazing" as that in Gone Girl, but Dark Places is more succesful in limning the way hard times can lead to heartbreak, and worse. Libby's voice is mesmerizing, but Patty and Ben's stories are the material for the most affecting and frightening farm tragedy since In Cold Blood.


Nate in Venice (Kindle Single)
Nate in Venice (Kindle Single)

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better and cheaper than a cappuccino in the Piazza San Marco, February 8, 2013
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I was surprised at how meaty the story is. In the vein of Death in Venice or The Time of the Cukoo/ Summertime, a visitor to Venice confronts his mortality in a place that is itself sinking into nothingness. With great economy and style Russo makes us care about a number of older tourists in Italy, chief among them the Jane Austen scholar Nick. The glamour of Venice might seem a stretch for the blue collar specialist Russo, but there is some grit in Nick's background and relationship with his brother that grounds a novella that is ultimately more about love than death.


The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $35.00
909 used & new from $0.01

12 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Masterpiece, September 30, 2012
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Another classic from J.K. Rowling. I haven't been so consumed by a novel since The Help. It's a sharp take on modern English village life and the need for compassion. Expect a lot of discussion of OCD in the coming months as more people read the book. It's not just about washing hands I learned, and JK says she suffered from it when
she was younger. There's also a methadone clinic that plays a central role and a sobering look at a physically abusive father. I have to confess that I savoured every scene featuring the outsized first citizen of Pagford, Howard Mollison. He's one of the funniest pompous characters since Ignatius in A Confederacy of Dunces. The teenage characters are wonderfully drawn, especially in the way they communicate to each other. Krystal of the Fields is the female Harry Potter without the magic powers. She strives as hard as Harry, and takes to crew like he does to Quidditch. She doesn't need an invisibility cloak to be invisible however. Poverty takes care of that. Readers will never be able to erase her from their minds or hearts. I'm giving my copy to my nephew this afternoon. I read the first Harry Potter book aloud to him in 1998. Time passes. I'm sure he'll handle this adult fare just fine and be the better for having absorbed its powerful message of sympathy. Butterbeer makes life sweet, but a novel like this changes you.


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