Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from May 24, 2018

Is this just a tease and we’re getting another snowstorm or is summer really here? I, for one, hope it’s summer as do the ten people who left their yards for the book discussion last night. Their attendance, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Code Girls: the untold story of the American women code breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. When the United States entered the second World War, in addition to soldiers and weaponry, the nation desperately needed intelligence and information about enemy plans and intentions. To further this end, 10,000 young and educated women were recruited as codebreakers. From the Pacific to the Atlantic theatres of war, their efforts helped to make victory possible. Most of these women were fresh from school or had never worked at anything other than teaching, secretaries or sales and now their efforts became essential to the war effort and ultimate victory. Some worked as civilian employees of the military while others were given commissions in the armed forces. We spoke about many topics within the book including the use of intelligence, the assassination of Admiral Yamamoto, the Enigma machine, sexual harassment, long distance romances, intelligence successes and failures, the role of Joe Rochefort and his cryptology department in the game-changing victory at the Battle of Midway and much more. In addition, many thanks to Shirley and Bernie Gershon for bringing in some cryptograms for the group to hone our skills in cryptology. Their contribution was much appreciated.

Our next meeting will be on June 28th at 7:00 pm. The book to be discussed, Indelible Ink: the trials of Peter Zenger and the birth of America’s free press by Richard Kluger, is available at the Circulation Desk. All are welcome

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion Recap from February 22, 2018

The winter must be taking its toll.  Only four people were able to make it to the book discussion last night.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated, as will be the arrival of spring.

Our book last night was The Lost City of the Monkey God: a true story by Douglas Preston.  Throughout the dense, isolated jungles of Central and South America, there are many legends of lost cities and civilizations.  One of the most enduring tales of a lost city is situated in the region of Honduras known as Mosquitia.  Due to dense jungles, poisonous snakes and insects and the presence of drug smugglers, Mosquitia is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth.  The book centers on an expedition of archeologists, other scientists, and the author to pierce the jungle and discover if the lost city is real and, if so, what was the nature of the civilization there.  Their exploration, unlike previous ones, was aided by advanced satellite and other technologies.  One of these was LIDAR, light direction and ranging, which enabled them to see, from above, through the jungle and into the ground.  What it showed was amazing, not just one city, but a series of them, an entirely unknown civilization.  But knowing what was there did not make getting to it any easier.  Mosquitia has no roads.  Access is by air, river or on foot.  Fortunately, the government of Honduras was eager to cooperate, providing several aircraft and some soldiers to assist.  There was still the problem of snakes and insects to contend with, but what they found was worth it.  They located a abandoned civilization filled with wondrous structures and carvings.  The book is like an Indiana Jones story with the added attraction of being real.

Our next meeting will be on March 22nd, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: the story of New York City’s greatest female detective and the 1917 missing girl case that captivated a nation by Brad Ricca, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

2018 Winter Reading Club

Title: Remodelista The Organized Home
Author: Julie Carlson & Margot Guralnick
Review: Remodelista is a design company that embraces natural materials and simple, artful design.  The beautiful pictures complement the message(s) and the resource guide in the back was invaluable.
Rating: 4

Title: When they call you a terrorist
Author: Patrisse Khan-Cullors & asha bandele
Review: I think that one the saddest things about this heartbreaking, eye-opening, critically important memoir is that the people who need this the most won't read it. But for those who do, this will be a life changer.
Rating: 4

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.