Connie Regan

Connie Regan

 


Connie Regan has been a Readers’ Advisor at Cook Library for over 26 years. She loves mysteries with complex characters and plots and when she’s not reading she’s riding her bike, swimming or watching the Blackhawks.


 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_iampilgrim_20140825-213059_1.jpgI Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes 

This debut espionage thriller depicts the collision course between two geniuses, one a tortured hero and one a determined terrorist, in a breakneck story reminiscent of John le Carré and Robert Ludlum at their finest.

PILGRIM is the code name for a world class and legendary secret agent who comes out of retirement to help the NYPD investigate a murder of an unidentifiable victim. His adversary is a man known only to the reader as the Saracen. As a young boy, the Saracen is marked for life when his dissident father is beheaded in a Saudi Arabian public square. Everything in the Saracen’s life from this moment forward will be in service to jihad and move toward unleashing a bioterrorism attack on the U.S. Part police procedural and part international spy thriller, this is a riveting page turner.


My audiobook choice is Love Life by Rob Lowe.
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First, though, I want to plug his earlier audiobook, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Often, an author reading his own book isn’t doing himself or the listener any favors. But Lowe is an actor with a persuasive and surprisingly humble voice. He is in a better place now than he was as a rising young actor who lived on the same street as the Estevez/Sheen family and the Penn brothers. An original Brat Pack member, he describes himself as “young and crazy” during those years. He eventually got help for his drinking and drug problems and has become a devoted husband and father.

In Love Life, I appreciate his candor and thoughtful insights about his long and successful career, his marriage, fatherhood and reaching the milestone of sending his older son off to college. He tells funny stories about himself like how he handled his first experience in a London play, “A Few Good Men”, when he skipped ahead four pages in the script while on stage, panicking the whole cast. From The Outsiders to Parks and Recreation, Lowe has had a varied career where he continually stretches himself in his work and personal life with a few failures and many successes along the way.  (To read more of Connie's reviews, click "Continue Reading" below.)

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sweetjudyblueeyes.jpgI’m a doctor’s office People Magazine reader. I don’t buy it or go out of my way to read it but I invariably pick it up when I’m waiting for an appointment. So I’ve surprised myself lately to find that I’m picking up and devouring music celebrity memoirs. And if it’s an audiobook, even better!

A few months ago, I listened to Judy Collins reading her memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. I’ve always been a fan of Collins and her music.  She is totally candid about her personal struggles, her love affairs, her activism, and the folk music scene. Yet, she is gentle in her description of music industry insiders. There are juicy details about her “brilliant romance” with Stephen Stills, some inside stories about sex, drugs, rock and roll and her fellow artists.

I lived through the '60s but I certainly didn’t live it the way that the singers, songwriters and musicians did, committed to making a difference through their music. It was such a turbulent time yet much of the folk music of the day is still relevant and so beautiful.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_oneplusone.jpgI’ve read every JoJo Moyes book that’s been published in the U.S. So it’s a no brainer that I’d grab her newest book One Plus One. It’s another contemporary opposites attract love story. What I love about her latest book is that I care equally about each character. Jess is trying to hold everything together, despite her vanishing husband, her teenage son who is being bullied, and no money to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Tanzie, her math prodigy daughter. She cleans the home of tech millionaire Ed, who has problems of his own but finds himself coming to her rescue. Moyes lovingly and capably guides the reader to a satisfactory conclusion with lots of laughs along the way. Robert Harris is another author whose novels never disappoint.

b2ap3_thumbnail_officerandaspy.jpgAn Officer and a Spy takes a shameful part of French history and thrillingly transports the reader to another country and place in time. I felt I was an observer in the courtroom, political and military back rooms, meetings and dinner parties of 19th century Paris. Alfred Dreyfuss, a Jewish officer in the French army is accused, tried and found guilty of being a spy. Some years later Georges Picquart, an officer involved in the case, finds evidence that this may not be the case. Those are the facts and Harris builds his story around them, revealing the racism and class issues that made Dreyfuss an easy scapegoat. It’s clear that Harris meticulously researches his novels and each one provides insight into real people caught up in almost unbelievable events.

b2ap3_thumbnail_oppositeofloneliness.jpgMarina Keegan was a promising writer, just hired by the New Yorker, whose play was about to be produced in New York, whose stories and essays had already been published in prominent magazines and who tragically died in a car crash five days after graduating magna cum laude from Yale. Her book of essays and stories, The Opposite of Loneliness was published two years later and I picked up her book, not knowing any of her writing or her short life. In a review J.R. Moehringer describes a “sorrow/joy” feeling while reading her book. Sorrow, for her short life so filled with promise, and joy that her insights and words provide hope for all of us. Marina’s voice leaps off the page and I savored every sentence.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_gregiles.jpgNatchez Burning by Greg Iles

Penn Cage, former prosecutor and now mayor of Natchez, Mississippi is drawn into 40-year-old secrets when his beloved physician father is accused of murder.  As Penn fights to clear him, his father refuses to answer questions or defend himself, leaving Penn to wonder how well he really knows his father.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles is daunting in story, scope and size.  Although it’s the first in a trilogy, I didn’t feel like I was left dangling at the end of the book.  I can’t help thinking that it must really be hard for an author to face up to the violent and racist past of his hometown.   Like so many southern cities, the charm, tradition and antebellum culture have been preserved while the fight for civil rights has continued for decades.

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Connie with our vast book club collection.

Whether you read one book a week, a month or even a year, time is precious and we don’t want to spend it reading a book that we don’t enjoy or that doesn’t qualify as “good” in your … book.

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I’m in a lucky position in my Readers’ Advisory position when it comes to debut novels.  Sometimes publishers send advanced reader copies (ARCs) before the actual book release. ARCs are bound uncorrected proofs sent by publishers to bookstores and libraries to create buzz, usually three or four months before publication. There can be high hopes for a new book by a new author with generous publicity coverage and a 10-city tour, but no one really knows how a book will do.  Sometimes a first novel takes on a life of its own, surprising publishers, bookstores and libraries. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_SEBASTIAN-FAULKS-NEW-IMAGE-smaller-size.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_pgwodehousebigger.jpgI know the fourth season of Downton Abbey just ended but I’m already anticipating withdrawal waiting for the next season.  I’m going to delve into P. G. Wodehouse, who’ll take me to England in the early 1900s. 

I just finished Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks, an homage to P. G. Wodehouse, “written with respect and gratitude for all the pleasure Wodehouse has given Faulks.”  I confess that I’ve never read P. G. Wodehouse, who wrote more than 90 novels and 300 short stories. He’s best known for the escapades of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Of course I’ve heard of the character Jeeves, whose name has come to represent the quintessential gentleman’s valet or butler. 

But I have to give credit to Sebastian Faulks, a modern literary author who has exposed me to the characters of Jeeves and Wooster.  I was only half way through the novel when my online searching showed me that our library has multiple Jeeves audiobooks and DVDs awaiting me. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is witty and madcap and “evokes” Wodehouse so that I want to read what I’ve been missing all these years.

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 Connie Regan is head of the Fiction, Movies and Music Department and a prolific reader. Wondering what books she has been reading? Here are three titles she recommends:

b2ap3_thumbnail_inventionofwings.jpgInvention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I picked this book up because it takes place in Charleston, SC, a charming and historic town. But underneath the charm is a city that prospered because of its seaport that imported slaves to grow the plantation crops of rice and cotton. Soon, I was caught up in the amazing life of Sarah Grimke, who in 1803 on her 11th birthday was presented with the slave Handful. Told in alternating chapters, Handful and Sarah describe the society that keeps all slaves and all women from independence. Sarah, Handful, and Sarah's sister Angelina are pioneers whose story is inspiring and riveting. Check our catalog.

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John Steinbeck with his traveling companion, Charley.

I love to read lists about books that I should have read before I graduated from high school, or lists of books that every well-read person has on their shelves, or lists of classics that I must read before I die.

This week the Morning Book Discussion Club at Cook Park discussed a book that I probably should have read in high school and probably should have on my shelf at home.  I’m glad that I did read it before I…well, I’m glad I finally read it.

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Connie with our Book Club books in the lower level.

Have you been afraid to go into our Lower Level at Cook Park?  Is it a warehouse? A dungeon?  A black hole?

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washingtonalifelastboymantleliferichards 

I’ve been an avid fiction reader all my life and it takes a lot for me to choose nonfiction, even the “so-called” nonfiction that reads like fiction.  It’s not that I don’t want to learn—I could get into a whole debate with anyone who thinks nonfiction is “truer” than fiction.  Oliver Wendell Holmes says it better than I.  “History tells lies about real people; fiction tells the truth about imaginary ones.”

Of course, this debate is unwinnable.  We have our reading preferences and we don’t have to defend them to anyone.   I majored in History in college so I will gravitate occasionally to a biography and this year I read (or listened to) three biographies that I enjoyed tremendously. Here are a few things I learned about each subject.

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