Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018 Winter Reading Club

Title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Author: Dave Eggers
Review: This memoir captures you and pulls you in - a family tragedy is the basis of a life moving forward while missing and respecting the past.  Dark, Moody, funny, violent...one reviewer put it best, "there's a restless energy all over this book."
Rating: 3
Permission: Y

Title: The Terrible Hours
Author: Peter Maas
Review: A sunken submarine and its daring rescue headed by one of the Navy's all time best, Swede Momsen.  A bit too technical for me but the history of diving and the innovations that Momsen made was interesting.
Rating: 2.5
Permission: Y

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Winter Reading Club

Title: No Time To Spare
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Review: An exquisite collection of essays by the acclaimed writer (who died on 1/22/18). Le Guin was a perspicacious intellectual and this offers a satisfying  peek into her thoughts.
Rating: 5

Title: We Are All Shipwrecks
Author: Kelly Carlisle
Review: Kelly Carliisle was 3 weeks old, when her mother was murdered. In this well-written, engaging memoir, the author describes an unusual childhood & tries to decipher truth from fiction.
Rating: 4

Title: The Bowery
Author: Paul Deville
Review: I had high hopes for this book when it was mentioned in a blurb in the WSJ. It reads like a textbook without enough visuals.
Rating: 2

Title: Taste What You're Missing
Author: Barb Stuckey
Review: The title is the best thing about this poorly written, obscenely redundant book. The sentences were so dreadfully constructed that they elicited laughter when I read them to my family.
Rating: 1

Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Review: The lessons from the crematory are quite profound, and I am thankful that I found this book. I appreciate Doughty's insight and intelligence, and was charmed by her humor and honesty.
Rating: 4

Title: Unqualified
Author: Anna Faris
Review: Anna Faris's acting is exponentially more entertaining that her writing.
Rating: 2

Title: Priestdaddy: A memoir
Author: Patrician Lockwood
Review: A terrific, touching, extremely well-written memoir. Lockwood's humor is divine.
I cannot wait for her next book.
Rating: 5

Title: The NYT: Footsteps
Author: The NY Times
Review: If you read the NYT travel section, you've likely read these reprinted stories. Not coincidentally, the ones I didn't remember were probably the ones I didn't prefer in their original incarnation.
1 like
Rating: 3

Monday, January 29, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from January 25, 2018

What could be better on a bitter January night than settling on the couch in front of a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate?  Why, going to a book discussion, of course.  Many thanks to the eleven people who braved the elements last night to attend.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Once Upon a Time in Russia: the rise of the oligarchs: a true story of ambition, wealth, betrayal, and murder by Ben Mezrich.  The book is set in Boris Yeltsin’s post soviet Russia, a time of great change and chaos, when a group of men, formally poor, mostly academics, were able to accumulate enormous fortunes through the manipulation and acquisition of former state properties.  They displayed their wealth ostentatiously, acquiring estates all over the world, enormous yachts and, of course, beautiful young women.There was jealousy between them, resulting in bitter rivalries that sometimes resulted in gun battles between their hired thugs and bodyguards and sometimes murder of those who stood in the way or questioned what they were doing.  Then Yeltsin, already suffering very bad health, resigned as president and shortly afterwards died.  He was replaced by Vladimir Putin.  At first, the oligarchs assumed it would be business as usual, but Putin had other ideas.  He insisted they could keep what they had earned or stolen, but the interests of the state had to come first.  He systematically clamped down on their activities and, in several cases, destroyed them.  Krysha is the Russian word for roof and meant protection from the higher ups.  Putin removed that roof, leaving the oligarchs vulnerable.  Our discussion was lively and centered on the relationship of money and power and how our current president is cozying up to someone who is essentially a despot.  It was an interesting evening.

Our next meeting will be on February 22nd, 2018.  The book to be discussed, The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

2018 Winter Reading Club

Title: Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawso
Review: To paraphrase a line from the book, 'I said a little prayer for not making me explain to the ambulance drivers that I'd accidently mistaken my cat for a rapist after purposely overdosing on laxitives to make my antidepressants work better." If this sentence intrigues you at all read the memoir of one funny woman that will have you giggling if not laughing out loud.  If it doesn't, then look for a different book.
Rating: 4.5
Permission: Y

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 Winter Reading Club

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Review: In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, this story is of a black teenager who is shot/murdered by the police and the only witness is a friend who has to find the reason and the courage to speak out. It definitely presents a picture of the other side of the story that doesn't get media attention.  I listened to the audio version and couldn't wait to get in the car each day to continue the story.
Rating: 4

Monday, January 8, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from December 28, 2017

Ah, Hawaii in the winter.  Warm sunshine, balmy breezes and fruity drinks while standing in an inviting pool.  Unfortunately, none of us were there.  Many thanks to the twelve people who braved the arctic last night to attend the book discussion.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Hero of the Empire: the Boer War, a daring escape and the making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard.  When most of us think of Churchill, we picture the portly, bow-tied figure with a cigar in one hand and flashing a victory sign with the other.  We tend to forget the dashing young journalist and soldier, a relative of a distinguished ducal family, who believed he was destined for greatness and was in a hurry to achieve it.  The story that Millard tells is of that young Churchill taking every opportunity, pulling every string, and using every influence he has to advance his career.  The story is set in what is today South Africa, but at the time was divided between British colonies and the Boer states.  Boers were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of the region and fiercely resented and fought against the British incursion into their lands.  Millard provides a history of the region, of how the Boers seized land from the natives and then the British from the Boers, resulting in a first and second Boer war.  It was during the second war that Churchill was captured by enemy forces and imprisoned.  After some time, he was able to escape, found his way through enemy lines to a neutral Portuguese colony and became a national hero.  He was soon elected to Parliament and was on his way to becoming the Churchill we know.  Our discussion covered the similarities between the Boer War and Vietnam, the difference between power and money and the nature of Churchill’s character.

Our next meeting will be on January 25th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Once Upon a Time in Russia: the rise of the oligarchs- a true story of ambition, wealth, betrayal and murder by Ben Mezrich, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from November 16, 2017

November has always been a strange weather month, first warm fall sunny weather and then an early blast of winter.  Many thanks to the thirteen people who braved the cold and wind last night to attend the book discussion.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Marco Polo: the journey that changed the world by John Man.  In the 13th century, people knew virtually nothing about the world outside of their immediate farm or village.  At the age of seventeen, Marco Polo left his home for a journey to China with his father   and uncle.  He would be gone for twenty-four years.  His written account of his journey and adventures, co-written with a romance writer he met in prison, would change the world by bringing the far east to the west.  But was his account true?  Polo was not above embellishing his stories by putting himself at the center of events rather than at the side as an observer.  The author of the book made an attempt to follow Marco Polo’s path as closely as possible, trying to learn what Polo had actually seen, done and participated in and what might have been fabricated.  No one will ever truly know.  But the one thing beyond doubt is that Polo’s journey made the world smaller and changed history.  We had a lively conversation covering many things including the history of the Silk Road and modern China’s attempts to reestablish it, the convergence of three religions, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam in Kublai Khan’s Mongolia and China, the different sexual mores between the Mongolians and the Chinese, the influence of Polo on Columbus, the film Citizen Kane, the palace of Xanadu and Coleridge’s poem of the same name and much more.

Our next meeting will be on December 28th, 2017 at 7:00 pm.  The book to be discussed, Hero of the Empire: the Boer War, a daring escape and the making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from October 19

Thankfully, the scarecrows in front of the Broadway entrance to the library did not scare people away from the book discussion last night.  Neither did I see any crows.  Many thanks to the nine people who attended last night.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was The Greatest Knight:  the remarkable life of William Marshal, the power behind five English thrones by Thomas Asbridge.  William Marshal was born sometime in 1147, the third son of a minor Anglo-Norman aristocrat.  According to the laws of primogeniture, he was entitled to little, if anything of his father’s small holdings and had to make his own way in the world, attaching himself in service to a lord as a knight, a professional soldier.  What ensued was a real life Game of Thrones, full of war, treachery, alliances, chivalry, and heroism.  When his life ended an astounding, for the time, seventy-two years later, he was the very wealthy earl of Pembroke and the regent of England, protecting the rights and kingdom of the child king Henry III.  In between, he fought in many battles, including the Crusades, competed in countless tournaments, bedded an English queen, fathered a dynasty of his own, oversaw the birth and signing of the Magna Carta, and faithfully served five English kings.  In an era when loyalties changed for a bag of silver or a tract of land, William Marshal stood as an icon to loyalty and service.  Our discussion was active and varied and much less bloody than medieval combat.  We spoke about feudalism, the Magna Carta, chivalry, the rights of the Church versus those of monarchs, the status of common people,  and much more.  A good time was had by all.

Our next meeting will be on November 16th at 7:00 pm.  The book to be discussed, Marco Polo:  the journey that changed the world by John Man, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Build a Better World Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: Amanda Wakes Up
Author: Allisyn Camerota
Review: A fledgling tv reporter gets a lucky break and makes it to an anchor job. Good behind the scenes daily life of a fv reporter written by someone who's been there.
Rating: 3

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Build a Better World Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Review: Likely the last book I've completed for this year's reading club has made me think the most. In this short book (I listened to the audio version) the author writes to his son about the struggle of the black community.  In this timely memoir his fear, frustration, anger as well as his growth, ideas, and love of family and his 'mecca' are displayed.  At times it made me angry to read these words and other times it made me simply sad. It presents a view that I have not lived but helps me understand a place where others have. Required reading? Perhaps, but at the very least it is thought-provoking.
Rating: 4