Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Just the Facts Book Discussion - October 18, 2018

  It seems that we moved from a hot, rainy summer to a cool, rainy fall and then directly into an early taste of winter.  What gives?  Many thanks to the eight people who bundled up to attend the book discussion.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

    Our book last night was Soldiers and Sons:  the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U, S, Army to fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson.  Upon the rise of Hitler and Nazism in the 1930s, most Jewish families in Germany realized what the future held and were desperate to escape.  The lack of visas and countries that would allow them in kept this from happening.  Had they been able to leave, they would have had to do so without their money or property, leaving them destitute in a strange country.  Many families devised an alternative plan to send their eldest sons out, regardless of the cost.  Most of these boys were in their middle teens and were sent to relatives in the United States whom they had never met.  Imagine these children, sent from their homes to a strange country and to relatives that were virtual strangers.  They did not speak English and didn’t know when, if ever, they would see their families again or even if their families would survive the coming conflagration.  Once here, they learned English, went to school, worked and, when the war began, volunteered to fight.  Being fluent in German, their services were needed and most were assigned to intelligence forces to assist in the interrogation of captured German soldiers and translation of captured documents.  The book is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Our conversation covered the experiences of friends and relatives who had relatives who had survived or escaped the Holocaust.  Or not.  It was a bittersweet evening.

    Our next meeting will be on November 15th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Showdown:  Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination that changed America by Wil Haygood, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Just the Facts Book Discussion - September 27, 2018

On a rain threatening evening, four people chanced the weather to attend the book discussion group.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.  Are we ever going to get some cool, crisp autumn weather?

Our book last night was Hue 1968: a turning point of the American war in Vietnam by Mark Bowden.  Up until the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue, fifty years ago, the American war in Vietnam was a question of jungle trained American troops fighting against bands of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong partisans with the aid of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN).  In the winter of 1968, coinciding with the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, the North Vietnamese launched a huge general offensive in the south, centering on the ancient city of Hue.  Their plan was to generate a general uprising in the South, destroying ARVN and driving the Americans from the country.  They captured and occupied Hue, but the general uprising they’d planned did not happen.  The American troops and their allies fought back, taking and delivering heavy losses, and eventually drove the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong from the city.  The city was destroyed, as was the American war effort.  Even Walter Cronkite, the venerable newsman, conceded and broadcast that the war could not be won.  President Johnson conceded that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost America.  Hue was the turning point.  It revealed shortcomings in American intelligence, tactics and strategy.  After Hue and the Tet Offensive, Americans stopped talking about victory and began to speak of negotiations with the North and of peace with honor.  It would take several more years until Nixon and Kissinger were able to extricate America from the war and the North Vietnamese conquered the South.  Watergate was one result.  Hue changed American history.

Our next meeting will be on October 18th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Sons and Soldiers: the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U. S. Army to fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

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