Between the chaos of the holidays and an unhealthy obsession with the Wordscapes app, I am sorely behind on blogging. But! It’s a New year and that’s what resolutions are for. Hope you enjoy the three books I managed to get to in December…
A House Among The Trees by Julia Glass
Have you read Julia Glass? If not, please read Three Junes immediately. Her latest focuses on Mort Lear, a beloved author and illustrator of children’s books (think Shel Silverstein), whose recent, sudden death leaves behind a bunch of lonely people trying to figure out how to respect his legacy. He’s pulled a fast one in his will, leaving all his art work to be handled by his longtime assistant, Tommy (short for Thomasina), instead of Merry, the museum curator who in charge of the museum dedicated to Mort’s work. Tommy, who has spent decades as a constant companion (no romance here, Mort was gay) is also fielding visits from the latest Oscar winner who will be playing Mort in a feature film about his life. It turns out that Nick Greene, the actor, was in correspondence with Mort prior to his death and has learned some disturbing facts that are not in the screenplay. He is determined, with Tommy’s help, to get an accurate version of Mort on screen. Then Tommy’s troubled brother, Dani, shows up with his own complicated resentments about Mort and Tommy’s history. Seen in flashback, Mort at first glance seems like a puttering old artist who loves to garden, but he becomes larger than life on the page as a charming, sometimes difficult man with some serious secrets. Tommy is constantly exasperated by each new discovery that emerges about Mort’s life, leaving her feeling betrayed since theirs was basically a platonic marriage. Glass knows how to create vivid characters with great depth and parallel storylines that reflect on each character’s past. A richly developed novel.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, Ruth Emmie Lang
Weylyn Grey was raised by wolves and can control the weather….and he has a “magic” pet pig named Merlin. Still with me? If you’re intrigued, try this one, as the rest of the characters in this modern-day fairy tale are far more down to earth. Mary and Weylyn meet as children after she wanders into the woods but because of her disappearance Weylyn is torn from the family he knows and sent to foster care, taken in by a kind minister and his family. Although teenaged Lydia becomes a lifelong “sister,” his strange ways rankle his shrewish foster mother and he is ultimately raised by a local teacher, who believes is his powers…but now the kid is dealing with some major separation anxiety, so it’s little wonder he grows into a solitary, untrusting adult. Fate brings Weylyn back to Mary (who is studying wolves!) only to leave her when his uncontrollable powers put her in danger. It takes tornadoes, hurricanes and a swarm of bees, to help him trust himself and finally let others in. Great line: “I woke with the long yawn of sunrise, with the birds and the beasts and the Sunday school teachers.”

Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown
If you’re like me, a pop culture freak who came of age in the ‘80s, this one delights. After an initially disastrous relaunch of Vanity Fair, Conde Nast brought Brown, not yet 30, from across the pond and named her editor-in-chief. As such, she became the toast of New York City, wooing notable talent, such as Annie Leibovitz, whose celebrity covers have become iconic images, as well as writers for both hard-hitting political pieces and frothy high society scandal stories from the likes of Maureen Orth and Dominic Dunne. Brown reminisces on schmoozing at dinner parties and rubbing elbows with everyone from Calvin Klein to Henry Kissinger, keeping the tone curious and diplomatic, rarely getting catty even with those who really deserved a diary dressing down (although she did NOT like Jackie Kennedy). But all was not glitz and glamour, as she juggled office politics, demanding advertisers, publicists of spoiled celebrities, all while diving into motherhood with a child who would later be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Brown also shows the shocking contrast of her glamorous life style against the back drop of a city where the homeless situation was rampant, and the raging AIDS epidemic took many of her friends and colleagues. Her interesting perspective as a Brit in this crazy American city makes for a fun, absorbing memoir.