Here’s what I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on September 4. I think it’s time to hit the books! Let’s go back to school with a book about sorority rush, another that is taught in colleges right now and two thrillers just for downtime fun.
Rush proves once again that Lisa Patton is good at semi-autobiographical books (her debut Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter was our first clue). In Rush, she mined her time as a sorority member at the University of Alabama. After a chance encounter with one of the sorority’s housekeepers, Patton learned that most sorority and fraternity houses in the South do not provide benefits for staff. So Patton asked herself: “What if the staff’s story had a different ending?” This work of fiction takes us into Alpha Delta Beta, the premiere sorority at Ole Miss. Lilith Whitmore is the wealthy, conniving House Corp President of the sorority, and she’s desperate for her daughter to be accepted there. Cali, another candidate, is a perfect fit except for the lack of a pedigree. Miss Pearl is the housekeeper and second mother to all the girls (her “babies”). When Miss Pearl is up for a promotion and Lilith gets in the way, the Alpha Delt girls decide to make some serious changes to the sorority and maybe even the entire Greek system. This is a delightful, funny romp that pits tradition against modern ideas.
Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants by Wolfgang Schivelbusch is taught to freshmen students at Millsaps Collge. My daughter passed it along to me after her class where she discovered that before it was banned late in the last century, opium was a staple in most middle-class medicine cabinets. Medieval nobles thought pepper was imported from the gates of paradise and consumed it by the pound. Before coffee became a common commodity, people sipped beer at breakfast. These are just a few of the things you’ll learn in this fascinating book that details the crazes and cravings for various substances (some of which we take for granted today) and how our never-ending appetite for pleasure transformed the economy and social structure of the Old World.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage is delightfully creepy! It’s also a brand-new and highly popular novel with some interesting dark humor and some truly scary scenes. The book also examines nature and nurture and good and evil. Suzette is a devoted stay-at-home mom to Hanna, who is now seven years old and does not speak. Suzette tries everything to connect with Hanna, but ever since Hanna was a baby Suzette has felt that the girl despises her. Older now, Hanna has become a master manipulator. She’s exceedingly cruel to her mother but absolutely loving to her father, who has trouble believing Suzette’s account of Hanna’s behavior. But now Hanna is becoming increasingly dangerous, and Suzette is convinced Hanna is trying to kill her.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the latest book by Ruth Ware, the author of the # 1 New York Times bestseller The Woman in Cabin 10. This one is another page-turning twisty thriller. Harriett Westaway (Hal) is struggling—with bills, with work, with life—when she gets a mysterious letter saying she is the recipient of a substantial inheritance from her grandmother. Hal figures this is a mistake since her grandparents have been dead for more than 20 years, but, with options running out, she decides that her cold-reading skills, honed as a tarot card reader, might help her claim the money. She travels to the sprawling estate Trespassen in the English countryside where the deceased Mrs. Westaway’s family has gathered to pay respects and claim their bequests. But Hal realizes that something is really wrong with the situation, and the inheritance, of course, is at the heart of it all.