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Thanks to you that were able to make the last meeting. We had a good time together and then some of us went to lunch afterward, to celebrate my recent retirement. I received a nice gift card from you all and I spent it yesterday at Barnes and Noble. I bought a copy of the history book I enjoyed but was unable to finish in a timely manner, The Men Who United the States, and a WWII history by Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. The latter I hope to use in my WWII family writing project. Now that I am my own boss, I intend to write something for my family about an uncle who died in flight training. I inherited his college and military training letters, written to his mother. Anyway, many thanks. You all are the best!
Laureen only managed to finish two books in July. The first was an “old” book (2004) that is in our Overdrive catalog of eBooks. It is a mystery by Elizabeth Peters, Guardian of the Horizon. This book is #16 in the Amelia Peabody mystery series. The stories revolve around a family of archaeologists who go on adventures to Egypt. I enjoyed the levity amid the turmoil and I found it the character’s attraction to her husband refreshing. The organization of the text was split up into diaries and manuscripts, so different points of views from the various characters could be seen. Quite entertaining and Laureen thought the author (who earned a Ph.D from the University of Chicago) got the flavor of the 1907-1908 time period correct. Laureen’s second book was a light summer read: Threads of Change by Jodi Barrows. This book is hard to categorize -- a western, Christian, romance? The time period is right before the Civil War and 4 women cousins flee Louisiana for the frontier in Fort Worth, Texas. It is a simple story and I guess Laureen needed that this summer. She noted it was #1 in a series and #2, Threads of Home, was in the NEW section at Woodland West. As of the meeting date, Aug. 20, Laureen was reading The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro, as an eBook, so she’ll report on that next month.
The new Stephen King novel, Mr. Mercedes, was the first book Ron reported on this month but he returned it to APL before finishing it. He just didn’t enjoy it and he thought this book was more of a detective novel than King’s usual horror story. An obsessed, insane killer is involved. Ron’s second and third books were more promising. Ron particularly enjoyed Act of War: a thriller byBrad Thor. He thought the story believable and the author described state of the art electronics and aviation. The story takes place in Korea and China. The main character is an intelligence officer. On someone else’s advice, Ron started reading Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell’s stories include quite a variety of people but he finds character traits that unite them in their stories of success. Several of us in Good Grounds have already enjoyed this book. Gladwell’s latest, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, is about motivation, struggle and success. One of his previous books, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, has to do with decision making.
Barbara told us about enjoying Dan Brown’s 2013 bestseller, The Inferno: A Novel. Then she went on to report an interesting new book, Love and Treasure: A Novel, by Ayelet Waldman. In this story, a WWII vet is close to death and he asks his granddaughter to find the owner of a stolen necklace. This vet was charged with protecting a train full of family treasure taken from Jews by the Germans. Evidently he kept a small part of the booty and felt guilty, so he asked for his granddaughter’s help. Barbara also briefly talked about a book that we have discussed before: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Barbara especially liked the list of books read, at the end of the book. She may have added some of them to her “bucket list.”
Betty picked up Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid in the NEW section of the library and didn’t realize until she was half way through that this book was a parody of the Jane Austen novel, with the same title. She had less interest in it after that. She went on to reread Leon Uris’s classic Exodus. Betty originally read this novel in the 1960s and, this time, saw it in a whole different light. She felt Uris really disliked the British. The Middle Eastern story is set in 1946 & 1947, when Israel formed as a country and many Palestinians were forced to emigrate. It is a complex part of history that Betty feels she understands a little more now. On the light side, Betty also read a “mindless” mystery, Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely. Betty liked the older characters in the book and Jane Austen got a mention in the plot, too.
Arlene has had a busy summer, which didn’t include too much reading, so she mostly came to Good Grounds to soak up all our reports. As of the meeting, though, she was reading The Clinic, a 1996 mystery by Jonathan Kellerman. We’ll probably hear about that next month.
The list that Ronnie brought this month started out “light” and then got more serious. The easy to read summer novel was Lighthouse Bay, by Kimberly Freeman. It is an adventurous love story, spanning centuries, and takes place in Australia. The next two books are life stories. Sonia Sotomayor’s is an autobiography that spans her life until she became a Supreme Court justice. My Beloved World was previously discussed by our group. A couple things that Ronnie took away from this book is that Sotomayor excelled at everything she set her heart to. She also has worked very hard to get where she is. Ronnie’s last read was the new biography, Sally Ride: America’s first woman in space, by Lynn Sherr. Ronnie described this as a captivating story of an exceptional woman. Ride almost became a professional tennis player. In college, she majored in Astrophysics. Ronnie is now reading Five Patients by Michael Crichton.
Although not exactly mysteries, Linda has enjoyed several of the Miss Julia series books by Ann B. Ross. This past month, she read Miss Julia to the Rescue, book 13 in the series, and Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover, book 15. Miss Julia is a Southern heroine who helps solve simple mysteries and family dilemmas. One of the reviewers of these 2012 and 2013 books said these titles have more punch than some of Ross’ previous work. If you are interested in book 14, APL owns it in large print: Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble. Linda suggests that if you want to start this series, the first book sets up the premise for the series. It is Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. There were 3 more titles on Linda’s summer list this month: Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James, described as a ghost story set in a rest home for WWI veterans in England; One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, which is briefly described as a funny, contemporary opposites attract love story; and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, which is a kidnapping story that takes place in Chicago and Minnesota. That a lot of reading, Linda! Wow, good for you.
Pete finished up the book he bought at an author presentation, at the library, during the summer. It is Buckskin Scots by Arthur Loughry. This historical fiction takes place in Canada and the American colonies, just prior to the American Revolution. The main character goes from being a Loyalist to a revolutionary. Pete found this writer’s style difficult, but the overall story was interesting and intertwined with history. Pete is now reading the other book bought at the author presentation, The Littlest Hero by Dan Vanderburg. This book takes place during the Texas Revolution in 1835-1836. Pete showed off a book he is reading, bought in an estate sale, called The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 2B. This book was edited by Ben Bova in 1973. It contains novellas by 11 different authors. Pete is also reading an e-book PDF file of some of Thomas Sowell’s essays.
David started telling us about a science fiction book that he enjoyed and then went on to read a diverse bunch of books. First up was a 2012 SF book The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, which involves time travel and a recluse. Books two and three, The Long War and The Long Mars, were published in the years after the first novel. The titles are in the APL catalog. For fun, David enjoyed a 1996 Scott Adams book, Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook. Dogbert is a sidekick character to the cartoon Dilbert. A reviewer called this book Adams’ “Machiavellian view of the workplace by illustrating the pitfalls of common management mistakes, such as raises and good communication.” David’s next book was reviewed last month by Betty. It is Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener. Michener didn’t start writing until age 40 and this title is a collection of related short stories about love and war. David thought it a very good read. Surprisingly, David also read a book by Elizabeth Peters but this one was not in her Egyptian series. The Love Talker is a mystery with fairies. David thought it might fit into the Young Adult category.
Elizabeth began her session with an aside about a summer trip to Orange, Texas, south of Beaumont, to see the W. H. Stark House. She handed out a brochure that told us about the 1894 home. A museum and nature center have also been added to the property. Elizabeth said it was a worthwhile destination.
As for reading, Elizabeth presented some interesting choices. The first was The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a fiction book about a female American botanist who thirsts for knowledge and has desire and ambition and who lives in a period of Enlightenment. Elizabeth also read the prepublication of What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault. It is sometimes described as a literary mystery, although it just got a so-so reaction from a couple Good Grounds readers. The “TV” book of the month for Elizabeth was Bones of the Lost, a Kathy Reichs book set in Afghanistan. It is a medical mystery, with the Temperance Brennan character in it, so it was right up Elizabeth’s alley. Her last reported read was Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Elizabeth said this non-fiction book is an eloquent call for a new social order. The book dispels the myth that you have to be outgoing to be successful. She really enjoyed this title.
Sandy wasn’t feeling well at our last meeting but she still wanted to participate, so Laureen will relay her emailed titles. They are Raven Black by Ann Cleeves and The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson. The latter book won’t be published until October, so Sandy read an advanced reader’s copy. APL has 4 other mysteries by Robertson. This story takes place in Paris in 1909-1910 and involves a female art student who is drawn into threatening intrigue. Raven Black is one of the Shetland Island mysteries by Cleeves, with Jimmy Perez as the investigator.
That about winds it up for this month. The next meeting is September 17, 11 am, in the Woodland West Community Room. I hope to see you then.
Written by Laureen, Good Grounds for Books leader
Here are some of our books on astronomy! Anyone who can go outside at night and look up at the sky can get involved with amateur astronomy. Whether you’re interested in gorgeous full-color pictures of the universe, reading about the history of the field, learning some of the science yourself, or would rather have a fictional story about astronomers, there is something for everyone. Click on the covers below to see more details about a book and put it on hold. You can also come in to any of our branches to browse in person.
Cora Blake is a widow who lost her only son in World War I. By the 1930s she's moved on as much as she can, raising her neices with her brother-in-law after the death of her sister. But when the US government offers to send her to France to visit her son's gravesite, she gladly accepts. Together with a group of other bereaved mothers -- an Irish maid from Massachusetts, the wife of a Russian chicken farmer, a socialite, and a former tennis star -- Cora travels to Paris. There, the women discover a web of shocking events that combine with their grief to tie them all together.
Like many novels about war, A Star for Mrs. Blake looks at the wider costs of conflict. Its main characters are Gold Star Mothers, so the book starts out with the basic, horrible fact of millions of young people dead before their time. While they're in Europe, Cora and the other mothers interact with other survivors of the war, including a journalist living with serious war-time injuries. It's also hard to read the book without thinking about World War II over the horizon. Cora and the other women are often hopeful that people will have learned from their mistakes, but as a modern reader, I know history is not that simple. A Star for Mrs. Blake is complex and often painful, but this makes it a powerful story.
Interested in this book? Click on the cover and sample the eBook below!
If you read this book and want to talk about it, come to the next meeting of the Southwest Morning Reading Group! The group meets at 11 am on the second Wednesday of the month, in the Southwest Branch Community Room. The next meeting is September 10 at 11 am. A Star for Mrs. Blake is September’s book. Come discuss!
The very premise of this book is exhausting! In 2011, Jennifer begins hiking 2,181 miles in 46 days in order to set the record for through hiking the Appalachian Trail. I enjoy backpacking and am aware of the discomfort involved in even modest hiking so when I saw this book I quickly grabbed it. Why would anyone want to attempt such a hike? For me the joy of hiking is experienced when you round a corner and see a spectacular view or when you are resting at the end of a long day next to the roar of a stupendous waterfall that can only be seen by hiking to it. If you are hiking an average of 46 miles a day you are hiking quickly with your head down and during hours when it is dark and therefore missing the beauty all around you. After finishing the book, I still do not understand why anyone would want to do this but I do have enormous respect for the author. Her ability to continue under severe pain and fatigue was phenomenal and I enjoyed the descriptions of sections of the trail and her interactions with some of the men who have set records. The book starts out a bit whiny but is definitely worth your time. If you have any interest in backpacking or what it takes to set an athletic record, check it out!
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Summer's almost over! Even though we'll likely have at least another month of hot weather, it always feels like the end of the season to me when school starts up. Luckily, there is still a little bit of time before that. Today I'm sharing my last new book recommendation for the summer. The publisher's summary is given below. Check out a copy to read by the pool, in line during back to school shopping, or stretch it out with the heat into September.
The Noble Hustle is Pulitzer finalist Colson Whitehead’s hilarious memoir of his search for meaning at high stakes poker tables, which the author describes as “Eat, Pray, Love for depressed shut-ins.”
On one level, The Noble Hustle is a familiar species of participatory journalism--a longtime neighborhood poker player, Whitehead was given a $10,000 stake and an assignment from the online online magazine Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker. But since it stems from the astonishing mind of Colson Whitehead (MacArthur Award-endorsed!), the book is a brilliant, hilarious, weirdly profound, and ultimately moving portrayal of--yes, it sounds overblown and ridiculous, but really!--the human condition.
After weeks of preparation that included repeated bus trips to glamorous Atlantic City, and hiring a personal trainer to toughen him up for sitting at twelve hours a stretch, the author journeyed to the gaudy wonderland that is Las Vegas – the world’s greatest “Leisure Industrial Complex” -- to try his luck in the multi-million dollar tournament. Hobbled by his mediocre playing skills and a lifelong condition known as “anhedonia” (the inability to experience pleasure) Whitehead did not – spoiler alert! - win tens of millions of dollars. But he did chronicle his progress, both literal and existential, in this unbelievably funny, uncannily accurate social satire whose main target is the author himself.
Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life, or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.
- (Random House, Inc.)
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