Thieves, Friends, Fashionistas, and Yoo-Hoo Sex | What We’re Reading

The  LJ/School Library Journal staff is reading all over the map again this week, with a bio of a fashion designer, a kiddie classic, an office romance, a cyber/technothriller, a Darcy duo mystery, and a story about a girl (maybe). 

The Story about Ping Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
This week I’m dipping into both the very adult and the very childlike. An episode I saw recently of TV’s Louie featured the title character reading The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack (text) and Kurt Wiese (illus.) to his daughter Jane. It prompted me to find the story online. It’s a real classic, one that I’m sorry I missed as a kid myself.
I’m also reading Lorrie Moore’s short story collection Bark (Knopf, 2014). The first tale, “Debarking,” was just disturbing enough to keep me reading the rest. One of my favorite excerpts:

There was sex where you were looked in the eye and beautiful things were said to you, and then there was what Ira used to think of as yoo-hoo sex: where the other person seemed spirited away, not quite there, their pleasure mysterious and crazy and only accidentally involving you. “Yoo-hoo?” was what his grandmother always called before entering a house where she knew someone but not well enough to know whether they were actually home.


AttachmentsKate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, LJ
Having officially secured my place as Rainbow Rowell’s best friend (see photo evidence here), it only seems right to round out my WWR ode to her utter brilliance. I am sad to announce that finishing Attachments (Plume, 2011) means that I no longer have any new Rainbow books to read, but unsurprisingly I am just as in love with this one as I am the rest. This time my spirit animal comes in the form of Lincoln, addicted to getting university degrees to avoid becoming a full-blown adult, a bit stuck in the past, and quietly pining from afar as he works the night shift at the local newspaper. To be sure, Rainbow gets people; their odd tics, the parts of themselves that they aren’t so proud of, and the amusing hypotheticals they bounce off one another to help get through a long day at the office.
Let me leave you with some wise words from Beth, the newspaper’s quick-witted movie reviewer, as we trudge through these next few humid summer months:

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!

Elsa SchiaparellLiz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I stepped away from fiction and especially crime fiction into the fashion world. Two copies of Meryle Secrest’s Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography, which is scheduled to come out in October from Knopf, came to the office. I sent one out to a reviewer and snagged the other for myself. I’m in the early years yet, where brave (yet quirky) Elsa is close to penniless in America in the 1910s, in the process of getting a divorce from a charlatan of a husband, and trying to secure treatment for her baby daughter, who suffered from infantile paralysis. Whew! Schiap’s designing days are just ahead, and I look forward to reading about her collaborations with Man Ray, Horst, Dalí, Cocteau, and others in the art world. I’m slowly getting used to the author’s use of present tense, and coming to appreciate her “show your work” method for biography: she admits straight up when she can’t find a firsthand account, then gets creative with secondary or even tertiary sources, but never hides that from the reader. Merci, Meryle!

Death Comes to PemberleyBarbara A. Genco, Special Projects Manager, LJ
Now that we are all cleaning up our cubicles for our move to new digs next month, lots of “I really meant to read that!” books are turning up. LJ’s managing editor Bette-Lee Fox gave me a copy of mystery master (mistress?) P.D. James’s terrific take-off on Jane Austen’s classic Pride and PrejudiceDeath Comes to Pemberley (Knopf, 2011). What fun!
It is now 1803, six years since our star-crossed suitors, Elizabeth and Darcy, finally wed. On the eve of the annual “Lady Anne” Ball at Pemberley a grisly murder is committed. All the expected characters make an appearance and happily James stays true to their Austen-created personae. Well imagined, satisfying stuff! Oh! And did I tell you that a British miniseries has already been produced?

Hurricane FeverMeredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
I have just started Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Bucknell, a Tor book coming out in July. Since I’m literally on page 22 I can’t tell you too much about it yet, but it is a sequel to his Arctic Rising, which I liked a lot. These are “technothrillers” set in a near future of rising sea levels thanks to climate change and the resulting geopolitical shifts. People compare these titles to James Bond stories, and I guess I can see why, but Bond annoys me and these stories don’t. The book might appeal to fans of Charles Stross’s “Laundry Files” series because of the Bond connection, but to me Buckell’s world has at least as much in common with Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, Maureen McHugh’s Half the Day Is Night, or even classic cyberpunk such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash—protagonists with know-how and connections but not a lot of money/power/status, trying to negotiate effective action for more than their own survival through the cracks of complex and sometimes menacing systems.

By Its Cover Etta Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
A while back I read Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief, a nonfiction account of a rare-map dealer who took to cutting maps from library books at such places as Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This weekend I read the related but fictional By Its Cover (Atlantic), by one of my favorite authors, Donna Leon. It features her beloved Venetian detective, Comissario Guido Brunetti, who investigates a crime so similar to that in The Map Thief that I think Leon must have based her story on the case. Though I found Leon’s ending slightly flat, I finished her book in a day and enjoyed its relaxing tone, and, as usual, glimpses of Venetian quirks and culture.
Now I’ve moved on to Tom Rachman’s The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (Jun., Dial), which (seems to) concern the life of a young girl struggling to make it in various locales around the world and over time. I’m finding it really hard to follow but will persevere as I’m enjoying the writing.


Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench