From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Jessica Dorfman Jones
Klonopin Lunch: a Memoir
What happens when a married lawyer with a hum-drum life gets a taste of Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll? Read this well-crafted memoir to find out. Jessica, a product of New York’s Upper East Side, always played by the rules, which included excelling at the finest schools and marrying her college boyfriend. Enter a handsome guitar teacher, and at the age of thirty, she forgets the life she knew. Their flirtation becomes a full-blown affair, and she starts to take illegal drugs, gets tattooed, and fancies herself a rock star. She writes songs with the guitar teacher’s pal, becomes the lead singer of a fledgling rock band, and stays out ‘til all hours of the night, thus testing the limits of her husband’s understanding and support. This tale of sexual obsession and codependency is painfully honest. She often doesn’t come across as very likeable or sympathetic. Yes, she’s selfish, and yes, she ought to know better. There are very funny sections, including the lunch with her gay pal, where the book gets its title. It could be said that New York City is another character in the book; the evocative descriptions of Manhattan are such that you can almost smell the spilled beer and cigarette smoke in the clubs. There are graphic depictions of sexual activity and drug use, so this book is not for the squeamish or the prudish.
From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Dave Barry
I’ll mature when I’m dead : Dave Barry’s amazing tales of adulthood
This is another laugh-out-loud book from my favorite funny man. With chapters covering topics such as fatherhood, technology, dog ownership, Dave’s Hollywood career and visiting Miami, you’re sure to find a favorite. Two chapters are hilarious parodies of the recent popular phenomena: The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and “24” the television show starring Kiefer Sutherland. My favorite is “Tips for visiting Miami: No. 1: Are you insane?” This had me in stitches: “We also have a growing population of unwelcome out-of-town wildlife species that have come here and clearly intend to stay. Two invasive species in particular have caused serious concern: Burmese pythons, and New Yorkers. The New Yorkers have been coming for years, which is weird because pretty much all they do once they get to Florida is bitch about how everything here sucks compared to the earthly paradise that is New York. They continue to root, loudly, for the Jets, the Knicks, the Mets, and the Yankees; they never stop declaring, loudly, that in New York the restaurants are better, the stores are nicer, the people are smarter, the public transportation is free of sharks, etc.” Dave has a most unique suggestion for handling the python problem once and for all.
From Margaret Mezzacapo
And I Shall Have Some Peace There
Author: Margaret Roach
I finished And I Shall Have Some Peace There by Margaret Roach. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be, “My, Margaret, how you do go on.”
Ms. Roach waxes metaphysical to the extent that I just wanted to ask her to get to the point. I read this one first because, as a gardener, I had read her columns in Newsday. Glad I read it, but it really could have been condensed.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Pete Townshend
Who I am : a memoir
After devouring the memoirs of Patti Smith and Keith Richards, I was looking forward to spending a little time reminiscing with Pete Townshend, lead guitar and writer for The Who. 500+ pages later, I don’t think either of us has figured him out. While Pete’s songs are beautifully crafted and speak volumes in ciphers, I found the book a bit slow going and unrevealing. The parts about his childhood were perhaps the most clear, after that, all the drinking and drugs must have blurred the memories.
From Rosemarie Jerome
Author: Linda Lafferty
The bloodletter’s daughter : a novel of old Bohemia
Power, lust, obsession and madness – these are the forces which drive this tale of the beautiful bathmaid Marketa Pichlerova of Cesky Krumlov and the illegitimate son of the Hapsburg King Rudolf II, Don Julius. In 1605, the king banished Don Julius to remote Cesky Krumlov to calm the uproar caused by his depraved acts in Prague. While there he underwent the treatment of bloodletting to purge him of the vicious humors that possess him. When the prince met the bloodletter’s daughter, Marketa, he became dangerously obsessed with her. Marketa was also drawn to, and frightened by, this mad prince. Lafferty creates a tale that is powerful and haunting, innocent and brutal and completely captivating.
From Andrea Kalinowski
Author: Ken Perenyi
Caveat emptor : the secret life of an American art forger
Caveat Emptor was an intriguing behind the scenes glimpse into the life of an art forger. Ken Perenyi sort of stumbled into this life by accident. He was an uninspired student with no definitive goals in life when he met the people who would introduce him to the art world. With this introduction, Ken Perenyi found his life’s work, that of an art forger. He was able to see a painting and instinctively break it down into its parts. He mastered many English artists before switching tracks and attempting American forgeries. What an amazing, colorful life!
From Ginny Pisciotta
Author: Deborah Feldman
Unorthodox : the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots
Unorthodox is a gripping memoir of girl growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a member of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism. Her father was mentally retarded and her mother left the sect when she was very young, so she was raised by her paternal grandparents.
Devoireh (Deborah) is an independent thinker and never fit into the lifestyle she was born into. As a child she would sneak into the library and bring home forbidden book “English” books which she had to hide. She had high hopes for her arranged marriage at age 17, but marriage brought a new set of problems. At 19, Devoirah gave birth to her son.
Devoireh managed to achieve more independence after they moved upstate where the Satmar community wasn’t so vigilant. She learned to drive and started attending classes at Sarah Lawrence College. She took more and more steps toward the life she desired for herself and her son, until eventually she left the world she grew up in behind.
This memoir was particularly interesting to me because it gave me an inside look at a community I only saw from the outside as a gentile growing up in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
The themes in this story are universal as many different kinds of people find themselves ill-suited to the culture or lifestyle they are in. Many have to make the decision between following their dreams or pleasing those around them. Many have to choose between thinking for themselves or letting others think for them. This a book that speaks to all these people, no matter what culture they are a part of.
From Eileen Effrat
Author: Douglas Jacobsen
This is a fast paced spy thriller set in Warsaw during August 1944. Polish resistance fighters rise up against the Germans, only to face the more ominous danger of a Soviet occupation and the NKVD. The plot surrounds Adam Nowak, a Polish American dropped into Poland by British intelligence as an assassin and resistance fighter, and Natalia, a covert Polish operative. They join forces to uncover a Soviet document from 1940, the Katyn Order, authorizing the murder of 20,000 Polish army officers and civilians. The British plan to use this document at the Potsdam Conference to prevent the Russians from taking over Poland. To stop this, the Soviet NKVD is ruthless in its attempt to eliminate all evidence regarding this document. This is historical fiction at its best as the story moves from Warsaw to London to Berlin.