Book– The Dutch House is the latest novel by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth. The Dutch House follows siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy as they navigate a complicated childhood that includes a mysterious, absent mother, a distant but loving father, and a stereotypical evil stepmother straight out of a fairytale. At the center is the “Dutch House,” a beautiful, extravagant, old home where the siblings grew up. The house and the events that transpire reverberate with, and profoundly shape, the siblings’ adulthood.
This is my first Ann Patchett novel. I admire her confidence, which expresses itself in the controlled and well-structured narrative. The Dutch House is not action-packed, but builds its strength on the insights of family, memory, loss and the power of a place. Recommended for fans of contemporary and domestic fiction, The Dutch House is available for digital download, in Large and regular print, and audiobook, narrated by Tom Hanks!
Book – A girl doesn’t become a librarian without some fairly solid organizational skills. When it comes to home management, however, I have always sworn that I won’t turn into my mother–a woman I deeply admire, but who very nearly cannot leave the house if the vacuum cleaner is not in the closet and who has a hard time falling asleep if there are dishes in the sink. Not, I insisted to myself, that I would ever allow my house to be actually dirty, but was it really the end of the world if a basket of clean laundry took a day (or two, or five) to get folded? That I even had clean laundry was an accomplishment, surely. And my room was, after all, already much neater than so-and-so’s. And besides, it had been a busy week. And over the weekend, I’d have one massive cleaning session, and then the entire house would be beautiful and shiny at the same time. And [insert today’s excuse for not cleaning here].
How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind is for those of us who do genuinely want to live a tidier life, but whose home-keeping has not yet graduated into the land of Martha Stewart and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. A non-traditional, chatty and readable handbook from a self-professed recovering slob and blogger, White’s book is effective for non-neat-freaks because it’s by a non-neat-freak. It’s full of simple strategies to set and keep small but meaningful habits that add up, slowly but surely, to a cleaner and happier place to live. She does a particularly good job of analyzing and codifying mental blocks like “slob vision” (not noticing out-of-place items until untidiness reaches critical mass) and proposing practical solutions which, unlike the admirable but overly ambitious goals of many advanced housekeeping manuals, are actually sustainable for everyone.
The verdict? On the busiest week in recent memory, my laundry is all folded and my sink is empty of dishes. And as far as I’m concerned, that counts as a definite win.
Book – Agnieszka grew up next to the dark enchanted wood, in the shadow of the Dragon’s tower. The Dragon is a wizard, not a fire-breathing lizard; he doesn’t eat the girls he takes, but he does take one every ten years or so, and she never comes home again. At least, not for very long. Everybody knows that he always takes the best, the cleverest, the most beautiful, the most talented girl, so they’re shocked when he picks Agnieszka instead.
But unlike the other girls, Agnieska’s been picked for a reason – she has the talent to become a wizard herself, and by the king’s law, she must be trained. (No matter how much she hates it.) And then, as war threatens and the enchanted wood begins to overflow its borders, spilling monsters and poison out into the surrounding lands, she has to learn, if she wants to save her home and everyone she loves from a terrible end.
I absolutely adored this book, and I resented everything that made me put it down until I could finish it. While it has a lot in common with fairy tales, it’s also a deep, complex story full of very human people who make the wrong decisions for the right reasons (and sometimes the right decisions for the wrong reasons), and how they face the consequences of their actions. Fans of Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon series and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor will love this, too. It also has a Hungarian flavor that would go very well with Steven Brust’s Dragaera series.