Friday, August 24, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion August 24, 2018

On a beautiful late summer night, six people took time off from their yards to attend the book discussion group.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Radium Girls: the dark story of America’s shining women by Kate Moore.  When radium was discovered, it was considered  something of a wonder drug with the ability to cure tumors and, if ingested in minute quantities, create a healthful glow.  It also had industrial uses, the most important being to create luminescent numbers and letters on watch and clock dial faces and on the dial faces of aircraft and automobiles.  The workers who did the painting were almost exclusively women who were taught the technique of “lip-pointing.”  The women would dip their brushes into a radium solution prepared by their male managers and then create a sharp tip by twirling the brush between their lips.  In addition, since the employment was based on piece work, they were encouraged to keep working at their tables even during meal breaks, thus ingesting more radium.  The pay was lucrative and the employed women felt lucky to have the jobs and even enjoyed that their clothing glowed in the dark when they made their ways home.  All was well until some women began to suffer mysterious pains in their mouths and began to lose teeth as well as part of their jaws.  Many developed hideous tumors on their extremities and more than a few died.  Lawsuits began between the United States Radium Corporation and the women.  The issue was radium poisoning, the company claiming it was safe and the women and their lawyers contending it was lethal.  Our conversation centered on the relationship of employers and employees and who, ultimately, is responsible for worker safety, then and now.  Our own experiences played a major role in the conversation.

Our next meeting will be on September 27, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Hue 1968: a turning point of the American war in Vietnam by Mark Bowden, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Adult 2018 Summer Reading Club

Title: The Middleman
Author: Olen Steinhauer
Review: When 400 people disappear on the same day and leave no trace, the FBI investigates. A popular movement called the Massive Brigade is at the heart of it. But what is it really? The agent in charge is determined to find out. And she does!
Rating: 3

Title: I've Been Thinking...
Author: Maria Shriver
Review: Growing up in the Kennedy shadow, being California's First Lady and most importantly, a mother - Maria brings meditations and prayers to anyone that needs to recharge and regroup and move forward in their life with gratitude.
Rating: 2.5

Title: What I Know for Sure
Author: Oprah Winfrey
Review: In true "Oprah" style she brings thoughts, advice and ideas based on her life and experiences.  Thought provoking at times

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Review: With no rain, this small Australian town is ready to ignite. And so are its inhabitants. When Aaron  returns for his best friends funeral, he finds all the answers to all the old mysteries. A well written mystery.
Rating: 5

Friday, August 3, 2018

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: Social Creature
Author: Tara Isabel Burton
Review: Livia has an apt paid for by her wealthy family and a big cash account. Louise can't make ends meet with 3 jobs. When these two become friends they fulfill each other. But with what disastrous consequences. Wacky but fun.
Rating: 3

Title: Millers Valley
Author: Anna Quindlen
Review: Unlike the old-timers, Mimi, 13 going on 30, realizes the valley will be flooded eventually. But in the meantime she tells all their stories. I love the way this author writes. She gets it right!
Rating: 5

Title: The Darlings
Author: Cristina Alger
Review: Paul, a lawyer, marries into this prominent NY family and then goes to work for the patriarch in his financial firm. When the SEC starts investigating them, he is caught in the middle. A thriller.
Rating: 4

Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: The Other Woman
Author: Daniel Silva
Review: When 2 potential Russian defections go awry, Gabriel Allon, now heads of Mossad (and my favorite recurring character) suspects a traitor somewhere. Along with MI6 and the CIA, he solves it. Riveting and true as always.
Rating: 5

Friday, July 27, 2018

JUST THE FACTS- July 26, 2018

It stopped raining long enough yesterday for people to stop loading their arks and attend the book discussion group.  Fourteen people ceased gathering pairs of animals to attend.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was The Book that Changed America:  how Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation by Randall Fuller.  Charles Darwin’s seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published just before the beginning of the American Civil War and did nothing to unite an already deeply divided people.  When the book reached America, some scientists were deeply impressed while others thought it was nonsense.  The issue of where God fit into all of this was extremely volatile.  One group deeply affected by Darwin’s theories were the New England professors at Harvard and other colleges and the Transcendentalists, a group of philosophers, including Henry David Thoreau, who sought to favor enlightenment over materialism.  Thoreau, especially, was deeply impressed by the work and incorporated Darwin’s theory into his roamings through the woods and cataloging of plants and animals.  Asa Gray, a very religious botanist at Harvard, at first embraced the book, but later had his doubts because he could not find the hand of God in Darwin’s work.  Louis Agassiz, another scientist at Harvard, rejected the book for the same reason.  We spoke about several topics, mostly about the theory, but also about genetics, the effect of outer space radiation on mutations, nurture versus nature and the sacrifice of Alfred Russel Wallace, who had arrived at the same conclusions as Darwin independently, but withdrew his publication in deference to the older man who had been working on his theory for thirty years.

Our next meeting will be on August 23, 2018.  The book to be discussed, The Radium Girls: the dark story of America’s shining women by Kate Moore, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: Little Girls in Pretty Boxes
Author: Joan Ryan
Review: A disturbing look at "women's" gymnastics and "ladies" figure skating, when in reality the sport is geared to young, impressionable girls.  The physical and emotional stresses on these athletes will make you think twice about enjoying the sport.  Although written in 1995, some abuses, as we know, continue to this day.   
Rating: 3

Title: Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family
Author: Kathy McKeon
Review: A delightful, sweet memoir of a young Irish girl that ends up being the personal assistant of Jacqueline Kennedy starting in 1964 and continuing for many years.  The highs and lows of working and living with American 'royalty' is told.  As an added plus, the audio version is read by a woman with a lovely Irish accent!     
Rating: 4

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: The Banker's Wife
Author: Cristina Alger
Review: In Geneva a young Swiss banker's wife learns her husband's plane has crashed in the Alps. As she investigates she learns many secrets about people who hide their fortunes in secret numbered accounts and how dangerous that knowledge can be. Suspenseful.
Rating: 4

Title: The Wife
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Review: An aspiring writer falls in love with her married professor. He divorces his wife, leaves his child and marries her. She helps his writing  but then accepts his character. When he wins the coveted Helsinki prize for literature (like the Nobel) she reassesses. Popular author.
Rating: 3

Title: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Review: A severely traumatized and psycholgicaly damaged Bridget Jones type recounts her life. Wry and funny and critically acclaimed (but not by me).
Rating: 3
Permission: Y

Thursday, July 26, 2018

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: Educated
Author:  Tara Westover
Review: True story of a girl raised by a Morman, survivalist family in Idaho, and home schooled, who ends up at Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. Very interesting.
Rating: 5

Title: Asymetry
Author: Lisa Halliday
Review: This author had a long relationship with Phillip Roth which she wrote about in Vanity Fair. Her novel mirrors it, then tells a whole different story, then barely connects the two. Uneven (like the title) but very well written.
Rating: 3

Title: Heat and Light
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Review: Bakerton'Pa reduced from a booming coal town to near ruin gets another chance with natural gas. But how fracking affects the residents lives in myriad ways is this story.
Rating: 4

Title: Safe Houses
Author: Dan Fesperman
Review: A young CIA agent,in West Berlin in 1979 hears something she shouldn't. Many years later there's a double murder in farm town in Maryland. The victims' daughter investigates and uncovers all kinds of secrets. Areal page turner.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Just the Facts - June 28, 2018

In spite of the almost biblical storms of late yesterday afternoon, it seems as if summer is really, at long last, here.  Many thanks to the three people who took their chances with the elements to attend the book discussion last night.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Indelible Ink:  the trials of John Peter Zenger and the birth of America’s free press by Richard Kluger.  Freedom of speech and the press protects all other freedoms and Zenger is commonly credited as a hero of the movement.  In reality, Zenger was a printer trying to make a living to support his large family.  The powers behind his selection as a hero of American freedom were a group of anti-royal governor officials who were trying to acquire as much land as possible for their own enrichment.  It was a mad land-grab, with hundreds of thousands of acres at stake.  Royal Governor William Cosby, who had his own plans for becoming wealthy, stood in their way.  These frustrated officials used Zenger and his newspaper to publish scathing articles vivlifying the governor and trying to get him ousted.  Eventually, Zenger was arrested and imprisoned and tried.  His acquittal was a victory for freedom of the press and led, in part, to the American Revolution.  The book is an excellent portrait of New York’s colonial government, a revelation to those of us who thought the Revolution began with the Boston Tea Party.  Our conversation covered various personalities and issues presented in the book, but, of course, evolved to a discussion of Trump’s fake news, as well as Edward Snowden and the NSA, Trump’s immigration policies and much more.  For a small group, it was a very pleasant evening.

Our next meeting will be on July 26th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, The Book that Changed America:  how Darwin’s Theory of Evolution ignited a nation by Randall Fuller, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.  Happy Fourth of July to everyone.