Booksink's HamletHub https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink Thu, 25 Apr 2019 09:52:38 -0400 HamletHub.com Freshly Inked: "Miracle Creek" by Angie Kim https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43878-freshly-inked-miracle-creek-by-angie-kim43878-freshly-inked-miracle-creek-by-angie-kim https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43878-freshly-inked-miracle-creek-by-angie-kim43878-freshly-inked-miracle-creek-by-angie-kim

Every once in a while, a really special book comes along, a book that is just perfect for you in so many ways. For me, Miracle Creek is one of those books. It is a delectable combination of medical fiction, mystery, courtroom drama, and immigrant story, all tightly woven into a fast-paced and wonderfully readable novel.

The story centers on the Yoo family who have recently immigrated from Korea. In an effort to support themselves and their teenage daughter, Mary, Pak and Young open a business offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in a submarine shaped chamber they call “the miracle submarine.” Patients drive long distance to undergo this experimental treatment, hoping it will be the one that finally makes a difference. Elizabeth brings her autistic son, Henry, who has been improving more slowly than she would like. No stranger to alternative treatments, Elizabeth hopes this will be the one that changes Henry into a normal child. Kitt bring her youngest child, TJ, who is severely autistic, constantly banging his head, and only calming when Barney the purple dinosaur is on screen. Teresa comes with Rosa, her teenage daughter who developed cerebral palsy after a viral illness, and Matt, whose Korean wife is family friends with the Yoos, hopes to improve his sperm function to cure their infertility. Within the close confines of the submarine, these strangers develop a forced intimacy over the long hours of the “dives,” a sort of makeshift dysfunctional family. When a horrific tragedy occurs—someone sets fire to the chamber with patients inside, leading to the deaths of Henry and Kitt and serious injuries for Matt, Pak, and Mary—the riveting story is set in motion. I couldn’t stop turning the pages to figure out who set the fire and why.

Kim utilizes an interesting structure to tell the story. The first chapter, entitled, “The Incident,” is told from Young’s first person point of view on the day of the fire and all of the following chapters are in third person close point of view one year later when Elizabeth has been put on trial for arson, rotating among all of the characters who survived the tragedy. Every character has a plausible motive to have committed the crime and a compelling storyline. With so many narrators, I usually find some more interesting than others, but in this case Kim does a commendable job creating story arcs for every character that are all believable and interesting.

Kim’s writing is lyrical, seamless, and articulate. I often found myself stopping to highlight a beautiful turn of phrase or unique description. In this section, Young has boarded an airplane for the first time:

“She looked at the metal-smooth wing, fluttering slightly as it grazed the clouds’ diffuse edges before slicing the cottony blooms in perfect precision, and she had a flickering sense of wrongness, that she didn’t belong in the sky. It felt like hubris. Rejecting your natural-born place in the world and using an alien machine to defy gravity and dislocate yourself to another continent.”

Within the gorgeous prose, Kim also addresses many important topics and themes, including the difficulty of raising a child with special needs, the challenges of immigrating to a country where you don’t speak the language or know the customs, and the problems that arise in an interracial marriage.

In this section, Young is thinking about the explosion and its consequences and about how everything could have turned out differently if only one piece of the puzzle had been missing.

“Every human being was the results of a million different factors mixing together—one of a million sperm arriving at the egg at exactly a certain time; even a millisecond off, and another entirely different person would result. Good things and bad—every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness—resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves inconsequential.”

So many elements of Miracle Creek come from the author’s own experiences. She immigrated to America from Korea as a preteen, she experienced HBOT first hand with her son who suffered from hearing loss and gastrointestinal disorders, and she is a former trial attorney. Kim makes use of all of her life experiences to make every scene believable, realistic, and heart wrenching. For more about Kim’s experiences and her inspiration for writing the novel, check out this wonderful piece she wrote for Vogue magazine.

I finished Miracle Creek on January 18, and yet I know without a doubt it will be on of my favorites novels of the year, and likely of all time.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Heather Frimmer) Readers Fri, 19 Apr 2019 17:04:46 -0400
My Life on the Post Road: Grace https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43877-my-life-on-the-post-road-grace43877-my-life-on-the-post-road-grace https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43877-my-life-on-the-post-road-grace43877-my-life-on-the-post-road-grace

Many years ago, I dragged my boys to something they resisted until we got there (this was a frequent occurrence back then). In a church in Darien, several burgundy and saffron-robed Buddhist monks crouched over a large piece of plywood with narrow metal funnels filled with what looked like colored sand, and very, very gently, and very, very carefully tapped it out in seemingly random places. But it became obvious that together they were creating an intricate mandala.

My boys, jaded and irritated, who would have rather been playing video games, or doing anything, when we entered the sanctuary, stood transfixed as patterns emerged and the mandala took shape. We were even more amazed when one of the monks explained that when they were done, they would sweep all the sand away in a ceremony recognizing the Buddhist emphasis on nonattachment and impermanence.

I’ve always wished to see another mandala ceremony in person, especially after viewing the moving The Englightenment documentary recently, about the Kalachakra initiation ceremony over which the Dalai Lama presides. I got that opportunity last week at the Resiliency Center of Newtown, where the Buddhist monks of DNLK (Do Ngak Kunphen Ling) Tibetan Buddhist Center in Ridgefield created a special compassion mandala. It seemed especially poignant in this space where the community continues to heal from the unimaginable tragedy that occurred there in 2012. While several monks from the Ridgefield center assisted, one monk alone, who had travelled from southern India, spent five days, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with only short breaks, completing the masterpiece.

I badgered one of the many friendly and welcoming monks with questions about the piece and the process. He explained that the vibrantly colored powder is actually ground granite, which they get from India. Each mandala – in fact each and every minute feature of every mandala – has sacred and specific meaning. He pointed out how this one illustrates the journey from ignorance to compassion through dharma (Buddhist teaching). As he spoke, two other monks lifted the creation from the floor to place it on a table they’d adorn as an altar to honor the work and the lesson before they swept it away in a ceremony later that day. Everyone in the room froze as they lifted, maneuvered, and positioned the large slab of wood over the table festooned with saffron covering fabric. I kept having visions of that scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen sneezes on another powdery substance, but his cohort were not so compassionate about impermanence and nonattachment. What if someone sneezed? Tripped? Stumbled? But I realized that here I was practicing the precise attachment to permanence that the entire exercise and these monks resist and see as an illusion.

The mandala made it safely to the table, and everyone let out a sigh of relief and a quiet round of applause. The artist bowed his head humbly and giggled. I have had the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak twice, and spent some time in the presence of other Buddhist monks at the DKNL Center and other trainings, and the thing that always amazes and surprises me is that despite their clearly very serious commitment to their practice and way of life, they are light and happy. The Dalai Lama often chortles at his own silly jokes – he donned a baseball cap of the sponsoring organization both times – and just smiles and radiates a calm that comes from a place I can only hope to get to in my mind one day. These monks, too, were joking and laughing in this town – in this place – that has so much sorrow to process. Practicing, clearly, what they very subtly preach.

The monk who created this particular mandala did not have a lot of English, but I chatted with him for a while nevertheless. Was he tired? I asked. No, no, he shook his head vigorously. He seemed invigorated. Would it be hard to watch them sweep away five days of his work? He shook his head no even harder. “Nothing is permanent,” he said, with a broad, soft, sweet smile on his face. “We will make another.” The staff of the center huddled together seemingly unconsciously, leaning in on one another, wistful, but peaceful smiles on their faces, some streaming tears.

I did not stay for the ceremony. I had some very other important stuff and things to do, I told myself. In reality, I was attached to the beauty and grace in that room, and I’m not sure I was ready to let it go. I may be on the path, but clearly have a long way to go in my own practice. I have deep appreciation both for the monks of the DKNL Center, and the people of Newtown, for illuminating the path.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:48:58 -0400
Book Signing and Whiskey Tasting in Bethel on April 30 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43876-book-signing-and-whiskey-tasting-in-bethel-on-april-3043876-book-signing-and-whiskey-tasting-in-bethel-on-april-30 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43876-book-signing-and-whiskey-tasting-in-bethel-on-april-3043876-book-signing-and-whiskey-tasting-in-bethel-on-april-30

Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and even Ava Gardner all loved their whiskey - and made no bones about it. Of his frequent enjoyment of a wee dram, Joyce noted that, “The light music of whiskey falling into a glass [is] an agreeable interlude.” 

On Tuesday, April 30 from 7 - 9:30 p.m., Bethel's Byrds Books will co-host drink historian, Tim Herlihy, co-author of From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland, for a signing party at J. Lawrence Downtown, located at 186 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel, Conn.

Tickets for the registration-only event are $40 per person and will include a hardcover copy of the book for signing and a flight of Irish whiskey for sampling. The author is providing tasting matts so you can record your observations and preferences. J. Lawrence will have specially-priced appetizers and a full bar available for the evening. The doors will open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. author talk to provide attendees time to check-in, find a seat, and place orders for food in advance. To reserve a spot, visit conta.cc/2KF8Gwq The event is hosted by Byrd's Books and J. Lawrence Downtown.

From Barley to Blarney is a comprehensive field guide to Ireland's robust and growing whiskey scene. The book provides a history of whiskey-making in Ireland, a look at 22 different distilleries and the unique Irish whiskeys each produces, highlights from the best of Ireland's 50 iconic bars and pubs, and 12 original mixed-drink recipes tailor-made for Irish spirits and crafted by the masterminds behind 2015’s “World’s Best Bar,” Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog.

For more information about Byrd's Books, visit byrdsbooks.com, or phone (203) 730 BYRD (2973).

 

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Ted Killmer) Authors Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:38:01 -0400
Ferguson Library Welcomes Author Jerry Zezima on May 8 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43875-ferguson-library-welcomes-author-jerry-zezima-on-may-843875-ferguson-library-welcomes-author-jerry-zezima-on-may-8 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43875-ferguson-library-welcomes-author-jerry-zezima-on-may-843875-ferguson-library-welcomes-author-jerry-zezima-on-may-8

Nationally syndicated humorist Jerry Zezima will visit the Ferguson Library on Wednesday, May 8 at 6:30 p.m. Zezima tells of crazy doings with his wife, their children, and their grandchildren, as well as friends, animals, and even complete strangers. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, a baby boomer, an empty-nester, or all of the above, you'll be glad he has invited you along to share his excellent adventures. The event will include a book sale and signing.

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. His other books include Leave it to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, and Grandfather Knows Best.
 
The Harry Bennett Branch Library is located at 115 Vine Road in Stamford, Conn. For more information, call (203) 351-8292.
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sally.stra@gmail.com (Ferguson Library) Authors Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:29:02 -0400
Spring Book Sale Fundraiser Begins Aug. 27 at Wilton Library https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43874-spring-book-sale-fundraiser-begins-aug-27-at-wilton-library43874-spring-book-sale-fundraiser-begins-aug-27-at-wilton-library https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43874-spring-book-sale-fundraiser-begins-aug-27-at-wilton-library43874-spring-book-sale-fundraiser-begins-aug-27-at-wilton-library

The Wilton Library's spring book sale fundraiser will be held from April 27 through Tuesday, April 30. The sale will feature some 70,000 items sorted into more than 50 categories, including histories, biographies, wellness, cookbooks, art books, religion, sports, travel, and science fiction. All level of books and AV for children and teens will be be available, along with gently used, collectible, rare books, DVDs, CDs, books on CD, and more.

Early Buyers begins on Saturday, April 27 from 7 - 9 a.m. with $15 admission. The sale is free to public from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday; from 1 - 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Monday, April 29, with books sold at half-price; and from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30 ($5 bag day).

Wilton Library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Rd. in Wilton, Conn. For more information, phone (203) 732-3950, etc. 213visit wiltonlibrary.org.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Books, Ink editors) Readers Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:20:52 -0400
Script in Hand Playreading of New Comedy Thriller “Murder Too” at Westport Playhouse on May 6 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/beyond-books/43873-script-in-hand-playreading-of-new-comedy-thriller-murder-too-at-westport-playhouse-on-may-643873-script-in-hand-playreading-of-new-comedy-thriller-murder-too-at-westport-playhouse-on-may-6 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/beyond-books/43873-script-in-hand-playreading-of-new-comedy-thriller-murder-too-at-westport-playhouse-on-may-643873-script-in-hand-playreading-of-new-comedy-thriller-murder-too-at-westport-playhouse-on-may-6

Westport Country Playhouse will present a Script in Hand playreading of a new comedy thriller “Murder Too" by David Wiltse of Weston, former Westport Country Playhouse playwright-in-residence, on Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. The cast includes Playhouse alumni David Beach, Joanna Gleason, Deirdre Madigan, and Andrew Veenstra. The reading will be directed by Anne Keefe, Playhouse associate artist and curator of the playreading series. Tickets are $20 each. 

In “Murder Too,” Mara Baron, the artistic director of a regional theater, has been receiving death threats in the mail, scary enough threats that she feels the necessity of installing a safe room in her house. The very attractive Luke Lawless has been hired to do the work. Enter Eve Harris Snedeker, the president of the theater’s board, Mara’s college roommate, best friend, and her major donor. Eve is distraught. It may be that Eve’s husband Todd is having an affair. It seems Todd Snedeker, mystery writer, playwright, and possible killer, might well be having that affair...with Mara. Hit men are hired, shots are fired, affairs are uncovered, and murder committed in this funny, scary, and theatrical thriller.

All dates, titles, and artists subject to change.

Westport Country Playhouse is located at 25 Powers Court, off Route 1 in Westport. For more information, visit westportplayhouse.org, or call the box office at (203) 227-4177 or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (WCP) Beyond Books Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:13:38 -0400
On the Children's Shelf: "Fablehaven" by Brandon Mull https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43872-on-the-children-s-shelf-fablehaven-by-brandon-mull43872-on-the-children-s-shelf-fablehaven-by-brandon-mull https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43872-on-the-children-s-shelf-fablehaven-by-brandon-mull43872-on-the-children-s-shelf-fablehaven-by-brandon-mull

I am friends with a family who are the best at recommending books. They are probably responsible for half of my "to be read" list. Several of my favorite books come from their recommendations as well. About two years ago, they recommended Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. I added it to my to be read list, but it sat somewhere in the middle of the list unread. I picked up a copy of book one year ago, and still it sat in that pile to be read.

Finally, last week, I opened book one and started reading. Wow. That's all I can say. I could not put book one down and when I finished it, I raced to the library to get book two minutes before they closed. I just finished book two and ran to the library and picked up copies of books three, four, and fvie because I don't want to risk finishing the next one when the library is closed.

Can i just say wow again? Seriously. Wow. This book was so good. The story begins with Kendra and Seth Sorenson going to stay with their grandparents for two weeks while their parents are away. Neither sibling is looking forward to the trip as they don't know their grandparents well and have never visited their house before. Upon arrival, their grandfather gives them rules about where they can and can't go on the property, which immediately sparks Seth's interest. Why would the forest be forbidden? What is his grandfather hiding? Kendra finds small keys in her bedroom that lead to her opening a locked diary she finds on her shelf. The only message in the book is "drink the milk" (meaning the forbidden, unsafe milk that the grandfather's groundskeeper puts out daily for the bugs). A quick taste of the milk gives the gift of sight ... Kendra and Seth can now see the magical creatures that live all around them that humans normally can't see. This knowledge of magical creatures throws them into a world with magic and treaties and power and the battle between good and evil. I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to ruin it.

I can't put this series down. It's a bit Harry Potter crossed with Keeper of the Lost Cities.The story is captivating and surprising and balances battles between good and evil with just the right number of twists. I highly recommend Brandon Mull's Fablehaven.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Jessica Collins) Readers Sat, 13 Apr 2019 11:44:52 -0400
My Life on the Post Road: Sages https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43871-my-life-on-the-post-road-sages43871-my-life-on-the-post-road-sages https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43871-my-life-on-the-post-road-sages43871-my-life-on-the-post-road-sages

Other cultures esteem, cherish, and care for older folk as treasured transmitters of tradition and disseminators of wisdom. Here, not so much. Even though I’m not all that old (until September, anyway), I can already feel the hints at marginalization – just like I felt when I told people I’d chosen to stay home to raise my children. As if parenting and senescence immediately negate anything else that makes a person interesting or valuable at a cocktail party - or in society.

It therefore delights me to travel in three spheres with women older than I who actively defy negative stereotypes of aging and whom I admire and respect.

  •  Book Group: This website’s editor gave me a great gift when she entrusted me with the helm of the book group she’d been leading. We meet monthly to discuss current and classic fiction. The women, numbering nearly twenty at our last meeting, are well read, erudite, and urbane. I prepare some research and a set of discussion questions as a launch pad, but they take off, bringing viewpoints and observations that make every single meeting a thorough, thoughtful literary adventure.
  •  Knitting: This group of intrepid craftswomen meets weekly at the Westport Center for Senior Activities to knit, nibble, and kibbitz. While we sit in a circle and create healing shawls for chemo patients at local infusion centers, we talk about life: family, food, love, sex, money … and sometimes, even politics. I am the baby of the group; some of the women are near or well into their nineties. I love listening to them reminisce, and appreciate their advice, culled and shaped over many years of tumbling over and circumnavigating life’s stumbling blocks. They can slap a problem into perspective before I’ve managed to make it through another row of knitting.
  •  Yoga: Two of my favorite instructors are in their eighth decade. They are both spiritually awakened, kind, and thoughtful women. They – whose flexibility and agility remains enviable – approach life off the mat much as they do their practice on the mat: mindfully, and with compassion. They ground and center me as they simultaneously lift me up.

I feel very lucky to have these three special groups of wise women in my orbit. They bring intellectual challenge and stimulation, model mental and emotional balance, and keep my on my toes physically. They help me prioritize problems and devise solutions. Individually and collectively, they make my life richer and reinforce the value of other cultures’ reverence for elders.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Sat, 13 Apr 2019 11:38:36 -0400
March Reads in Review https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43870-march-reads-in-review43870-march-reads-in-review https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43870-march-reads-in-review43870-march-reads-in-review

My reading slowed down considerably in March due largely to a two-week trip I took to Greece to visit family. I did so very much visiting, in fact, that it was hard to find time for leisure reading, though I wouldn’t have it any other way. It did made me confront how little socializing I do in my regular life, but anyway. Now for the fun part: the numbers and recaps.

Number of books read: 9

Number of pages read: 2,709

Number of formats read: 4
Hardcover (4)
Paperback (3)
Ebook (1)
Audiobook (1)

Number of genres read: 4
Children’s/YA (6: 5 fantasy, 1 apocalyptic)
Ancient literature (1)
Contemporary fiction (1)
Historical fiction/fantasy (1)

Full list of books read (in order of reading):

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

This novel had an interesting premise: As bombs drop on London during the Blitz, three children escape to an alternate wonderland … where war also breaks out. However, the story is not about their magical escape. Instead, it deals with the aftermath of their return. Like I said, it was an interesting premise…

The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser

A YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set at a boarding school. Headmaster’s daughter Emma discovers a magical book: Whatever she writes in it comes true. This was a fun romp with magical realist elements.

Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod, translated by M. L. West

Hesiod’s two poems are among the earliest texts we have from ancient Greece (it’s debated whether he or Homer came first). Theogony is a genealogy of the Greek gods while Works and Days is a didactic poem featuring the myths of Prometheus and Pandora as well as lines and lines of farming and seafaring advice and a list of lucky days.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

An enjoyably engrossing family drama about Miranda, who as a child loved her uncle’s scavenger hunts. Then he disappeared from her life. Years later, she discovers he has died and left her his bookshop as well as the clues to one last scavenger hunt that reveals the secrets behind his mysterious disappearance from her life.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

This is a fantasy YA novel in which a kingdom is divided into three castes. Lei belongs the lowest, Paper. She lives a quiet but fulfilling life working in her father’s shop. Until her golden eyes attract the attention of a royal guard, who kidnaps her and presents her as a gift to the king. She unwillingly becomes part of his harem, and drama, danger, and a major cliffhanger ensue.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

This historical, magical realist novel is set at the Emporium, a magical (literally) toyshop in London, during the first half of the 20th century. It follows the fates and fortunes of two brothers, heirs to their father’s shop, and Cathy Wray, who runs away from home at 16 to work at the shop. The blurb compares it to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Jesse Burton’s The Miniaturist, and that is fair enough.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Oh look, it’s another YA novel. This one, which I listened to on audio, is pre-apocalyptic. It follows four teens as they grapple with how they want to live what may be the last two months of their short lives after they learn an asteroid is on a collision course with earth. It’s a slow burn, but the final third ratchets up the drama and pathos.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I have a nonfiction book on the Amazons and thought it would be interesting to read a novelization of them as well. My expectations were not high, so there was nowhere to go but up, really. I ended up pleasantly surprised by the application of ancient Greek concepts and myths. Though some of the dialogue and camaraderie among the cast felt forced at times (like filler between the action sequences), the handling of ancient Greece made this a fun read for me.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

A historical middle grade novel about Nan, a young orphan who serves as a chimney sweep in Victorian London, and the “monster” she raises. Read it and weep. Literally.

How was your March? Travel anywhere interesting, exciting, or otherwise noteworthy in books or real life?

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Sally Allen) Readers Fri, 05 Apr 2019 17:19:06 -0400
My Life on the Post Road: Customer Disservice https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43869-my-life-on-the-post-road-customer-disservice43869-my-life-on-the-post-road-customer-disservice https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43869-my-life-on-the-post-road-customer-disservice43869-my-life-on-the-post-road-customer-disservice

I recently spent what felt like an eternity in what would certainly have been Dante’s 10th circle of hell if he’d ever had to call customer service. I had two admittedly first world, but immensely pesky, issues that need resolving.

  1. Bloomingdale’s had sent the wedding gift that I ordered for my niece Julie from her bridal registry to a different bride-to-be named Emily.
  2. Someone at SUNY Buffalo, who went to lower Manhattan for Spring Break according to their coffee bean trail, was treating themselves to even more copious amounts of Starbucks than I do, using my cool guy gold card. Without my knowledge or permission.

In order to get through to a surly humanoid when I called, I had to jump through infinite hoops of phone tree hell. These systems seem only to connect me to an actual person just seconds before I decide to throw my phone to the ground and stomp on it like a tempestuous two year old.

Even though I’d keyed in everything short of my blood type infinity + 1 times, I still had to explain who I was before I told the entire story to the only marginally interested representatives. In both cases, four times on four separate calls, making an annoying, disconcerting total of eight calls. Totaling about five hours of my life I can never get back.

“I’m sorry that you had that experience. You must be frustrated. It would be my pleasure to help you resolve this problem,” they both lied as they read from the Bloomingdale’s/Starbucks script on their computer screens. After which they made me explain the dilemmas at least three more times before throwing up every roadblock they could to reach an actual solution. They explained that:

  1. They could no longer help me and that it was my niece’s problem, and she’d have to call an equally apathetic bridal registry representative (Bloomingdale’s), and…
  2. They’d connect me to a supervisor and then promptly disconnected our call (Starbucks).

Both situations remain stuck in purgatorial limbo. I have no hopes of ever seeing a credit from Bloomingdale’s or a replacement card from Starbucks. I compare these negative experiences with the ones I have at companies like Nordstrom and Amazon. Say what you will about particularly the latter behemoth, but they make my life easier. Not harder. Not more frustrating. They resolve problems almost before you know you have them or can explain them to cheerful, enthusiastic, helpful real people. They make returns easy and snafus disappear. Give you credit when things go awry. Wash your car. Massage your back. Okay, maybe not those last two, but they do empower their employees to just make things right, so that I feel, after speaking with them, as happy as I do when I get a good haircut. Granting intelligent employees this level of autonomy and agency makes them feel more engaged in their work and creates loyal customers. It’s a win-win that Bloomingdale’s and Starbucks just don’t seem to get.

Photo by Diane Lowman

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 05 Apr 2019 15:25:37 -0400
Award-Winning Connecticut Author Speaks At Housatonic Community College https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43868-award-winning-connecticut-author-speaks-at-housatonic-community-college43868-award-winning-connecticut-author-speaks-at-housatonic-community-college https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43868-award-winning-connecticut-author-speaks-at-housatonic-community-college43868-award-winning-connecticut-author-speaks-at-housatonic-community-college

Award-winning Connecticut author Okey Ndibe spoke with community members and Housatonic Community College (HCC) students, faculty and staff on March 31 as he discussed his book, Never Look An American In the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American.

“For HCC to make my memoir the fulcrum of conversation for the semester is incredible,” said Ndibe, whose book was chosen for the College’s 2019 One Book, One Campus initiative. The shared read experience of this Connecticut Book Award winner and robust related programming was designed to promote discussion of topics raised in the book, creating a deeper understanding of issues we’re facing today.

Originally from Yola Nigeria, Ndibe shared stories to underscore the differences between cultures and the narratives we all carry with us.

“My transition to America was very difficult, and it is still ongoing,” said Ndibe, who arrived during winter 1988 at the invitation of famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.

“Nothing in my experience prepared me for arctic air,” said Ndibe, “With no winter coat, I arrived to a frosty reception, and it got worse – 10 days later I was arrested for a bank robbery because I looked like the suspect.”

Ndibe explained that his uncle, a film buff who watched a number of Westerns, gave him the advice to "never look an American in the eye because they all carried guns." When police were looking for the bank robbery suspect, and Ndibe fit the description, it was this advice that perpetuated their suspicions.

After 30 years in America, and now a U.S. citizen, Ndibe considers himself an American but openly shares his Nigerian experiences in an effort to expand others’ viewpoints.

“We learn when we open ourselves to other perspectives. I’m helping America to change, and at the same time, it’s changing me. When the country is open to its immigrant history, there’s an enriching dynamic at play,” said Ndibe.

Housatonic Community College would like to thank Connecticut Humanities for their support of the College’s 3rd Annual One Book, One College program.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Laura Roberts ) Authors Fri, 05 Apr 2019 15:16:19 -0400
Sunday in Darien: The Poet's Voice Returns to Darien Library https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43867-sunday-in-darien-the-poet-s-voice-returns-to-darien-library43867-sunday-in-darien-the-poet-s-voice-returns-to-darien-library https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43867-sunday-in-darien-the-poet-s-voice-returns-to-darien-library43867-sunday-in-darien-the-poet-s-voice-returns-to-darien-library

Darien Library will present Charles Rafferty as its 2019 Poet’s Voice poet. Rafferty will be on hand for a reading and reception Sunday, April 7th at 2 p.m. in the Darien Library Conference Room. Refreshments will be served.

Charles Rafferty is the author of several books of poetry, including The Smoke of HorsesA Less Fabulous Infinity, and The Man on the Tower, which received the Arkansas Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in The New YorkerOprah MagazinePrairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. He has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, as well as the 2016 NANO Fiction Prize. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College and teaches at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. Rafferty’s work is “sometimes lyrical and ecstatic, sometimes funny and self-deprecating, sometimes wistful, but always beautifully precise.”

The Poet’s Voice – the series that has brought Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Prize recipients, and Poets Laureate to local public libraries – celebrated its 40th season in 2017, with readings at Darien Library and Greenwich Library. The series, traditionally held at Fairfield County libraries, is supported by the Horace E. Manacher Poetry Fund. The Manacher family of Greenwich has supported these readings since 1977 in an effort to bring notable poets to the community. The readings have included Pulitzer Prize winners Yusef Komunyakaa, Charles Simic, Mark Strand, and James Tate. Nobel Prize winners Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott have also appeared over the years, as have U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) Billy Collins and Connecticut Poet Laureate (2001-2006) Marilyn Nelson. Dana Gioia, a reader in the series and former Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts labeled the series “a model for poetry readings.”

The Darien Library is located at 1441 Post Rd. in Darien, Conn. For more information, phone (203) 655-1234, or visit darienlibrary.org.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Books, Ink editors) Authors Fri, 05 Apr 2019 15:11:28 -0400
Debut Novelist Erica Boyce to Speak in Fairfield https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43866-debut-novelist-erica-boyce-to-speak-in-fairfield43866-debut-novelist-erica-boyce-to-speak-in-fairfield https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/authors/43866-debut-novelist-erica-boyce-to-speak-in-fairfield43866-debut-novelist-erica-boyce-to-speak-in-fairfield

Fairfield University Bookstore will host Erica Boyce on Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m. on the 2nd floor, where she will discuss her debut novel, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel GreenFor readers seeking the warmth of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend blended with the creative spark of Rachel Joyce, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green explores the unexplainable bonds of family, the everyday wonder of love, and the strange mysteries life provides that help humanity light up the dark.

Daniel Green has always been alone; in fact, he prefers it. As a member of a secret organization, he travels across the country creating strange works of art that leave communities mystified. But when a dying farmer hires him in a last-ditch effort to bring publicity to a small Vermont town, Daniel finds himself at odds with his heart. It isn’t long before he gets drawn into a family struggling to stitch itself back together, and the consequences will change his life forever.

Publishers Weekly says, “Boyce’s debut is a dexterous blend of love, loss, work, and fortitude… This is a thoughtful, appealing novel about life’s endings and beginnings.”

Erica Boyce is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard University. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and a corgi named Finn. This is her debut novel. Copies of The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green will be available for purchase/signing. RSVP for the event to FairfieldUBookstoreEvents@gmail.com.

The Fairfield University Bookstore Downtown is located at 1499 Post Road, Fairfield, Conn. For more information, phone (203) 255-7756.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Nancy Quinn) Authors Fri, 05 Apr 2019 15:06:32 -0400
WCSU to present screening of film Measuring the World April 10 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/beyond-books/43865-wcsu-to-present-screening-of-film-measuring-the-world-april-1043865-wcsu-to-present-screening-of-film-measuring-the-world-april-10 https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/beyond-books/43865-wcsu-to-present-screening-of-film-measuring-the-world-april-1043865-wcsu-to-present-screening-of-film-measuring-the-world-april-10

The lives and legacies of two of the world’s most celebrated intellectual giants of the 18th and 19th centuries will be recalled with a presentation on Wednesday, April 10, of the film “Measuring the World” at Western Connecticut State University.

The 2012 film directed by Detlev Buck, based on the novel by Daniel Kehlmann, offers a dramatized portrayal of the personal stories and intellectual genius of the German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss and the German humanist, naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The screening will be at 3:30 p.m. in Room 025 of White Hall on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The presentation will begin with introductory remarks offered by Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Todd Trimble, about Gauss; and by Professor and Chair of the World Languages and Literature Department Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova, about Humboldt.

Admission will be free and the public is invited.

Gauss, who lived from 1777 to 1855, is universally recognized as one of the preeminent mathematicians of the modern era, whose wide-ranging achievements made pioneering contributions to knowledge in diverse fields including number theory, algebra, geometry, astronomy, magnetism and geodetic surveying. Humboldt, whose life spanned nearly 90 years from 1769 to 1859, brought the modern scientific tools of measurement and analysis to his explorations of vast and previously uncharted lands in the Americas and central Russia. Humboldt’s scientific work resulted in enduring contributions to diverse fields of study from botany, geology and geography to ecology and meteorology. His master work “Kosmos,” published in several volumes, sought to provide a holistic scientific understanding of the physical world.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

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kerry@ducey.org (Robert Taylor) Beyond Books Fri, 05 Apr 2019 06:35:49 -0400
Freshly Inked: "Little Lovely Things" by Maureen Joyce Connolly https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43864-freshly-inked-little-lovely-things-by-maureen-joyce-connolly43864-freshly-inked-little-lovely-things-by-maureen-joyce-connolly https://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/readers/43864-freshly-inked-little-lovely-things-by-maureen-joyce-connolly43864-freshly-inked-little-lovely-things-by-maureen-joyce-connolly

For some reason, I’ve read several books in the past few weeks that center on children in peril—kidnappings, mysterious disappearances, murders in the woods. I don’t actively avoid books like this, but I also don’t seek them out. These books found me. Perhaps it’s a subconscious choice—if I read about these horrible things on the page, maybe it  will prevent anything like this from befalling me or my children.

Little Lovely Things is the debut novel of author Maureen Joyce Connolly, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with on the phone recently. Two things about this book are shocking—the first that a book this gorgeously written and effortless could possibly be a debut and the second that a woman so friendly and vivacious could have written about such brutal and disturbing events. The story follow Claire Rawlings, a medical student, wife, and a mother of two little girls. On the way to work, Claire becomes violently ill and is forced to stop at a gas station, leaving her girls in the car with the motor running. When she returns, she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare. The car is gone.

The rest of the novel is brilliantly structured, switching between perspectives from Claire to Moira, one of the kidnappers who desperately wants a child of her own, to Jay White, a bystander with a checkered past, to Colly, one of Claire’s kidnapped daughters. Each character is beautifully developed and real, and Connolly did a marvelous job integrated the characters’ ethnic backgrounds and native languages into the story—Moria is an Irish traveler, and Jay is Native American. No matter which character we are with, Connolly somehow manages to get the reader on their side, using backstory and realistic details to engender empathy and understanding. This novel defies characterization, but I think it’s much more family drama than thriller.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the wonderful descriptive language. The fresh and unique turns of phrase really make the scenes come alive.

Here are a few of the many I highlighted:

“Curling her spine forward like a small shrimp in its shell”

“The arabesques of frost on the windshield in the winter”

“The sun, which was warm and bright and caramel flavored”

“The stars seemed to crackle like cellophane”

The rich mellow odor of old crayons, so different from the plastic-y new ones”

Every character has their fair share of trauma and grief, but Connolly does a remarkable job with the ending, a heartbreaking combination of sadness and hope. Little details carefully placed along the way come together in a just right ending, which is also a long-awaited new beginning for the Rawlings family.

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sally.stra@gmail.com (Heather Frimmer) Readers Fri, 29 Mar 2019 13:49:04 -0400