Readers Recommend what to read, watch, and listen to
There were 12 of us at Good Grounds this month. Thanks for coming! New member Paul joined us and comradery filled the room so thanks for making him feel welcome. For our reading report…
LAUREEN read only one book this month. She bought it as a paperback at an estate sale but the library owns The Golden One: A Novel of Suspense by Elizabeth Peters. APL also owns it as an e-book. It was originally published in 2002. This title is from the Amelia Peabody series by Peters that Laureen has read before. She still enjoys the characters and intrigue. All the main characters are British archaeologists and they’re doing their work in Egypt and environs during the early 20th Century until WWI. I admire the research Peters did. She was a trained Egyptologist so she knew the archaeological angle but, in her writing, she also used British vocabulary from that time period. Peters is a pseudonym for Barbara Michaels. She also wrote under the name Barbara Mertz. She died in 2013. APL owns her last book, A River in the Sky, and Laureen hopes to read it in e-book form soon.
RON reported to our group on the latest Joel Rosenberg novel, The Third Target. This fictional plot involves the IS organization and terrorism in the Middle East. Ron thinks it is Rosenberg’s best novel yet and that he thinks Rosenberg researches well for his plots, making them all the more believable. Next Ron will read The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. This author is a friend of Ron’s oldest son. The plot is one of deception, conspiracy and murder. We hope to hear about that in March.
PAUL, our latest member, is a prolific reader but he chose two books to report on at his first Good Grounds meeting. The first is A Step of Faith: the Fourth Journal of the Walk Series by Richard Paul Evans. The first book of the series is The Walk. Plots in this series involve a character taking very long walks to get over a large loss. This book is probably Paul’s equivalent to a “TV” book. He said A Step of Faith is easy to read and could be rated PG. We all need that once in a while. Paul also talked about a non-fiction book he finished called The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. Paul admits this is not an easy read but non-techies might enjoy the historical sections on how the computer developed, starting with how words developed and how logic and reasoning came into the picture. Paul also mentioned Ada Lovelace’s role in the development of computers. She was a genius who designed a computer in her head, long ago. Author Gleick is a physicist and he wrote this book in 2011. The APL catalog says Gleick’s book shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality.
BETTY brought us three mysteries to discuss. She read A. D. Scott’s The Low Road: a Novel. Our group has heard about this author’s work before. The mysteries take place in Glasgow, Scotland with John McAlister as the lead detective. As far as mysteries are concerned, Betty felt this book routine. She said sections with wife beating were very disconcerting. In one of the APL write-ups of this book, the reviewer called this book a “portrait of extremes.” Next up was A Demon Summer by G. M. Malliet. The main character in Malliet’s books is a British vicar who happens to be a former MI5 agent. Church of England nuns enter into this plot. Betty found this Max Tuder mystery entertaining. Betty’s last reported mystery was local author Deborah Crombie’s To Dwell in Darkness. Crombie’s main characters are married British peace officers Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James. Betty got impatient reading this book.
LINDA recommended 4 books to us and her favorite was Life After Life: a Novel by Kate Atkinson. The main character here is born and reborn repeatedly in 1910. The plot shows the same character in different periods of life, after her reincarnations. Linda thinks this author says something about the British upper middle class and she particularly noted the detailed description of the London Blitz. The next book Linda read, which also takes place in England, is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book is on bestseller lists and Linda said she had a hard time putting it down. Some of the characters are psychotic. The third book Linda talked about is Her: a Novel by Harriet Lane. It is a chilling tale of one person taking revenge on another after taking a small and easily forgotten moment too seriously and making it define her life. It is a tale of friendship and identity. The last book on Linda’s reading list is A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan. The APL review section for this story calls it darkly funny. The narrator is a creepy real estate agent who keeps the keys of clients’ new homes and snoops on them.
SANDY was the next of our group members to read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, which has made its rounds in our group. This author has a movie adaptation of her book Gone Girl in theaters now, so that may account for the 17 holds on this 2009 book. It is a psychological thriller in which a mother and most of her daughters are murdered. A surviving daughter testifies against her brother and he goes to prison for 25 years until his sister has doubts about her testimony. One reviewer called it a Hitchcockian thriller. Like Linda, Sandy also read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The main character takes a daily train ride, pretending to go to work, but one day she witnesses something terribly shocking. At that point, each chapter describes a different rider on the train and readers are led to a conclusion about the shocking incident. In a somewhat strange correlation, a reviewer said for Hawkins’ book said fans of Gone Girl will devour the latter book. Sandy read a review in “Book Page” calling the next book a top pick for children for November 2014 so she gave Audrey the Cow: an Oral Account of a Most Daring Escape, Based More or Less on a True Story by Dan Bar-el a try. It is a 232 page book, so it is certainly not a picture book. Although Sandy says this story includes sweet pictures, it is NOT the next Charlotte’s Web. The story revolves around Audrey not wanting to go to market so maybe the reason the pictures are so sweet is that the illustrator is a vegetarian!
TONY finished a book that he described as quite nice and a fast read but a tear jerker. The story is What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. There are 2 plots here. The main characters are Clare and Izzy. The women are from 2 generations and their stories alternate in the book. The APL catalog listing calls this a “story about the nature of love and loyalty and the lengths we will go to protect those we need most.” The mystery and suspense story is, according to Tony, two stories for the price of one.
BARBARA wasn’t at Good Grounds last month but she certainly kept reading and brought 5 finished books to the table and one in progress. Her first two books have already been reported on by our group. They are John Grisham’s Sycamore Row and Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. Barbara mentioned Grisham’s legal fiction book as, perhaps, her favorite read. She found Hillenbrand’s book uplifting because of the power of Zamperini’s personality. Next up on Barbara’s reading list is Burgess Boys: a Novel by Elizabeth Strout. One brief description of the plot is that the family in this book is dysfunctional. The fourth book is nearly the same theme. Barbara read Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard. APL does not own this paperback, which came out in 2010. Last on the finished reading list is Oxygen by Carol Wiley Cassella. Barbara considers it well-written. It is the story of an anesthesiologist, a malpractice suit and family obligation that tears at the protagonist. Last up is the in-progress read, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. The APL catalog records notes “after the death of their father, four siblings return to their childhood home. Their mother reveals that they must stay together for a week, according to the terms of their father’s will.” They have to sit Shivah-a Jewish mourning custom. Barbara thinks the book very funny. There is also a new DVD made from the book, with Tropper as screenwriter.
PETE got a new electronic reading device for Christmas so he put it to the test this past month. He read a book just out in February 2015 that APL doesn’t own yet. The spoof Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale is by actor David Duchovny. The theme of this book is very much like the children’s book Sandy read, Audrey the Cow. The whole novel is written in cow, Elsie’s, point of view and she does everything she can to avoid being eaten. The author is a former vegetarian, now a pescetarian (fish eater.) Pete said reading this e-book was really different, although he didn’t appreciate all the curse words in the story. It is a quick, funny read. Another e-book that Pete also downloaded was Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. The author is a former educator and her writing kept Pete engaged. The plot involves 2 private plane crash survivors who live on an island in the Pacific for two years and then lie about what happened after they are rescued. The lies drive the plot all the way to the finish of the book. Pete said the story is a bit of a stretch but believable.
DAVID finished reading Unbroken by Hillenbrand, just as Barbara did. He found the torture scenes hard to read and he particularly enjoyed the first third of the book that describes Zamperini’s childhood and Olympic running career. The main book that David told us about was The Smoky God: or, a Voyage to the Inner World by Willis George Emerson. This 1908 publication is in David’s favorite genre, Science Fiction. It can be bought in paperback form through Amazon. The author wrote in a style that David feels is similar to Jonathan Swift. Amazon calls this book an early example of underground civilization. According to the plot, sailor Olaf Jansen took his boat through an entrance, near the North Pole, to the earth’s interior. This happens around 1830 and the people who inhabit inner earth are now 12-15 feet tall. David downloaded his copy of the book through hollowearthsociety.com. A modern, juvenile fiction series with a similar theme is the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. The first book, in the series of five, is Gregor the Underlander.
JOYCE read the new John Grisham novel, Gray Mountain. Our group previously discussed this book and most of our readers really enjoyed it, as did Joyce. Next she read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley. This is the first book in the Flavia de Luce series. The main character is a 9 year old girl genius who solves mysteries. Flavia lives with an eccentric father. Joyce thought it enjoyable to get into the mind of this girl. The third reported read is What the Lady Wants: a novel of Marshal Field and the Gilded Age by Renée Rosen. It is a well-researched historical fiction story, based on the life of Marshal Field. It relates the development of Field’s stores and the plot begins at the famous Chicago Fire. The last book of the day that Joyce presented to us is Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal. This fiction novel is a first book by author McNeal and the story is about a little girl, dropped off with her grandmother after her father dies. Her mother is still living but can’t deal with the child. Grandma Fannie lives in New Orleans and has mental issues, so her African-American cook, Queenie, primarily raises the child and helps her learn the Southern way of life. Joyce liked this book.
That wraps it up for the February report. Good Grounds for Books will meet next meeting on Wednesday March 18 in the Woodland West Community Room. Until then, happy reading!
- Laureen the (retired) librarian, Good Grounds for Books leader
Here are the books being adapted into movies in March. There are documentaries, thrillers, fairy tales, and more. Check out a book before or after you go to the theater to see how they compare. Below are publisher or film studio summaries. Click on the cover pictures to find a copy in branch near you or to place one on hold.
Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
In theaters March 6
“Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is "not settled" denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive. These "experts" supplied it.
Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.”
- (McMillan Palgrave)
You’ll like these if you want to see Cinderella, in theaters March 13
A live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, Cinderella brings to life the timeless images from Disney's 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation.
The Prone Gunman, by Jean-Patrick Manchette, translated by James Brook
You’ll like this if you want to see The Gunman, in theaters March 20
“Martin Terrier is a hired killer who wants out of the game, so he can settle down and marry his childhood sweetheart. But the Organization won't let him go: they have other plans for him. In a violent tale that shatters as many illusions as bodies, Jean-Patrick Manchette subjects his characters and the reader alike to a fierce exercise in style. This tightly plotted, corrosive parody of "the success story" is widely considered to be Manchette's masterpiece, and was named a New York Times "Notable Book" in 2002. The Prone Gunman is a classic of modern noir.”
- (City Lights Publishers)
Serena: A Novel, by Ron Rash
In theaters March 27
“The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton arrive in North Carolina to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any worker, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness.
Together Serena and George ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of their favor. But when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out on her own to kill the son George had without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking finale.”
- (Harper Collins)
The Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted 179 years ago today, marking Texas’ independence from Mexico!
To show some Texan love, Arlington Public Library Collections and Technical Services staff was asked to name their favorite author and musician that call Texas home.
Nancy, Collections Supervisor:
- Robert Earl Keen (musician)
- James Lee Burke (author)
- Asleep at the Wheel and George Strait
- Jodi Thomas
- Beyonce, and if we're going local, Pentatonix
Dan, Cataloging Supervisor:
- Old 97's
- Larry McMurtry
Melissa: Virtual Services Supervisor
- Erykah Badu
- Bruce Sterling
Eric, Technology Services Manager
- Old 97's
Linda, CATS Administrator
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
Check out other Texan musicians and authors available in our collection!
February is Black History Month, a time for recognizing and celebrating the role of African Americans in the United States’ history. You’ll find something to interest you, whether you want history, poetry, classic works, new fiction, or something else. Check out the titles below or come by a branch to browse in person!
The Arlington Public Library’s Black History Month Festival is Saturday February 28 from 12 – 5 pm at the Southeast Branch. Come out to enjoy a film discussion, live music, a community performance showcase, and the return of the Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble to the Arlington Public Library. We’ll see you there!
Our group was fairly small in January but we still managed to conjure up some good reading despite the holiday hubbub. Here is our report.
LAUREEN wanted to read her annual Christmas book and it turned out she found 2 small ones. The 1st one she picked because of her penchant for crossword puzzles. It is Wrapped Up in Crosswords and a mystery but not a very good story. One of the characters had a fanciful name (Rosco Polycrates) and the author’s name, Nero Blanc, is a pseudonym for a married writing team. The four crosswords included in the book were a new challenge, especially the first one which used a puzzle device Laureen had never seen before. The 129 page book was published in 2004 and proceeds from the book were donated to the PA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Despite its uniqueness, Laureen won’t read any more Nero Blanc books. The 2nd Christmas book was read by Pete and Laureen. The Gift: A Novel, by Pete Hamill, is a 153 page coming of age novel that concerns a young man home on leave from the Navy during the Korean War. It is somewhat dark but satisfying. Laureen’s favorite read of the month was Bill Bryson’s travel book, In a Sunburned Country. Laureen read the e-book version of this book, so she missed the goofy front cover of the hardback book. In this case, the only disadvantage to reading this in e-book form is that the maps were so small they were hard to follow. The art on the front of the book gives a clue to the sarcastic humor within. This book describes Bryson’s repeated trips to discover Australia. His writing about natural wonders in that island nation makes you want to fly down there and see it for yourself. Laureen was surprised at the sobering description of Australians’ bad relationships with Aborigines and its dysfunctional capitol. Australia is a young, sparsely populated country that, according to Bryson, is often in the background in world news. This book is fascinating and well worth the time. Member, Arlene, previously read this book before her trip to Australia and enjoyed it.
RON received a book for Christmas that he reported on first. It is In the Land of Blue Burqas, by Kate McCord, which the Arlington Public Library does not own. It is a non-fiction book about a woman who lived in Afghanistan for 5 years. The Amazon review for this title pointed out that Afghanistan has been called the world’s most dangerous country to be a woman. McCord talks about the harsh reality of women’s lives in that part of the world but she also she also tried to bring a heavy dose of Christianity with her. Ron thinks the content is more geared to women than men. He did enjoy another David Baldacci book—The Escape. Ron rated it as very good, with a bracing plot that keeps you reading. It is full of intrigue and espionage. As of the meeting, Ron reserved Joel Rosenberg’s new book, Third Target. This fiction book is concerned with ISIS terrorism in Syria and a journalist who pursues a story about a reputed cache of chemical weapons.
SANDY read Gray Mountain by John Grisham, which has been read by a couple members of our Good Grounds group. Although it is fiction, Sandy considered it an exposé of the coal industry. She is now reading Gillian Flynn’s 2009 novel, Dark Places. It is a story of a murder of a mother and two of her daughters. A surviving girl testifies against her brother but 25 years later her story falls apart and she is once again on the run from murderers.
JOYCE's first book this month was The Boston Girl: A Novel, by Anita Diamant. The catalog description for this book says it is a novel about family ties and values, as told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman in the early 20th Century. Joyce felt this book was good but not gripping. Next she read a book that has already made the rounds in our group: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics, by Daniel Brown. Joyce really liked this non-fiction book. It goes into depth about the men and their struggles to come up the hard way. The lessons they learned in the Olympic trials and games were useful throughout their lives. 3rd on Joyce’s list was All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel, by Anthony Doerr. The action in this new bestseller, a WWII novel, takes place in Europe but mostly in France. Joyce says there is a touch of mystery in this book, as well as a story of survival. Joyce also saw the movie “Unbroken” and she mentioned that she especially enjoyed the section of the movie that takes place at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She had already read about the rowing team from the University of Washington and their experience at the same Olympics, so she enjoyed seeing the 1936 track experience of Louie Zamperini in the Jolie movie.
ELIZABETH also read The Boston Girl: A Novel. Her take on it was that it was believable, friendly and down to earth but Elizabeth especially enjoyed Diamant’s previous 1997 book, The Red Tent, which Elizabeth described as exotic and like a gourmet meal compared to everyday chicken soup in the new book. Next Elizabeth read a western novel -- not her everyday cup of tea. It is The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout. This novel was first published in 1988 and has been reprinted in paperback. It is an unusual story of 4 women who settled in the Dakota territories in the 1850s and the 2 main characters take it upon themselves to bring them back East for care. Elizabeth says there is a surprise ending to this book and she learned a lot about the history of that time period of American life. The last book on Elizabeth’s list was a “Nordic Noir” book, The Murder of Harriet Krohn, by Karin Fossum. She described it as a psychological murder mystery.
ARLENE spent some time in China this fall, and she wanted to read some books about Chinese people, so she chose Life and Death in Shanghai. It is the autobiography of Nien Cheng, who was the wife of a businessman before the Cultural Revolution struck China. She was a well-educated widow at the time of the revolution in the 60s and she had a nice home. The Red Guard came to get her and all but destroyed her home. She spent 6 years in prison but never confessed to being an enemy of the state. When she was released from prison, she never returned to her home. She went to Canada and the United States. Arlene said this is a story of resilience and Ms. Cheng certainly reinvented herself abroad. Arlene’s next read will be Mao’s Last Dancer. This is a biography of Cunxin Li who went from being a poor village boy in Mao’s China, to attending the Beijing Dance Academy, and then he became a lead male ballet dancer. During a tour, he fell in love with an American woman.
PETER read The Gift: A Novel by Pete Hamill as well as a paperback book he bought from local author/teacher Richard Selcer. APL owns this book only as an e-book. It is Forth Worth Characters and it contains 12 chapters and 12 different stories about citizens of Fort Worth. Peter likes the ability to pick and choose stories to read, like a short story book.
DAVID picked up the 2014 non-fiction book by Eben Alexander, The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion and Ordinary People are Proving the Afterlife. It is evidently a sequel to his 2012 book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. David felt like the newer book is full of testimonials that don’t really fulfill the subtitle. He stopped reading it and does not recommend it. The fallback read, for David, was science fiction, of course. He read favorite author David Weber in A Mighty Fortress. If you don’t want to hold up the 718 pages, you can download the e-book for this title from APL. David really enjoyed this book, which is the fourth in a series, all named for hymns. As of the Good Grounds meeting, David picked up How Firm a Foundation, the 2011 book by the same author, in this Safehold series. He likes the mental exercise of just trying to keep up with the many characters in these fiction books.
Adieu, everyone. Good Grounds for Book's next meeting is 11 am on Wednesday, February 18 in the Woodland West Community Room. Hope to see you there for our monthly meeting of the reading minds.
-- Laureen the (retired) Librarian, Good Grounds for Books leader
When I first heard the news that there were talks of a live-action adaptation of the 1995 cyberpunk anime classic Ghost in the Shell, let’s just say I wasn’t pleased…
(Scarlett Johansson Set To Play Major Motoko Kusanagi. Something Doesn’t Add Up Here.)
An Older Anime Worth Watching
For many younger anime fans, Ghost in the Shell may be an unknown title, but its influence can be seen in some of the West’s most famous sci-fi works. Ghost in the Shell is a head-scratching (trust me, you’ll have to view this film multiple times in order to fully understand it) cyberpunk anime based on the manga Kōkaku Kidōtai by Masamune Shirow that showcases a future where most of humanity has the ability to connect to a vast system of networks through the use of cybernetic brains. This cybernetic brain known as a “ghost”, can be housed in a cybernetic body, called a “shell” that allows the processor to have almost superhuman strength and abilities.
What Is “Human” in This Brave New World?
However, this new state of being creates a new vulnerability, the risk of having one’s cyber-brain or “ghost” be hacked and have a whole host of things happen, the most disturbing of which are either having one’s memories erased, false memories implanted and thought of as one’s own, or having one’s cyborg body completely taken over.
A government operative called Section 9 lead by Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team of all but a couple completely cybernetic agents investigate this new era of crime. Throughout the course of the film, Kusanagi questions her very existence or if she existed at all. What does it mean to be human when all that makes you one has been fully enhanced and developed by technology?
The “Ghost” That Haunts Hollywood
Given the nature of the anime and manga based on it, it’s no wonder that this was a heavy influence on the Wachowski siblings’ 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix. In fact, Ghost in The Shell has many big name fans in Hollywood, two of which are Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, having inspired a number of their films including: Avatar, AI: Artificial Intelligence, and Minority Report.
This has been a passion project of famed director Steven Spielberg for many years and with the obvious influence it’s had on a number of western films, it’s disappointing that this Japanese creation will more than likely feature very little in the way of Japanese or Japanese-American actors. Variety.com and other entertainment news sites have reported that actress Scarlett Johansson will be set to play Major Kusanagi in the live-action version of Ghost in The Shell on April 14, 2017 by DreamWorks.
I’m curious if they tapped Scarlett Johansson to play Kusanagi because of the character’s rather interesting (and fan-servicey) mode of combat, though it’s unlikely to make an appearance in the American version of the film. While it’s understandable that Scarlett would be a favored choice for the role, it would be nice if Hollywood took a risk and cast a majority of the roles to Japanese actors in this film. Look at actress Rinko Kikuchi of Pacific Rim, she would be a great choice as Major Kusanagi, or any number of Japanese actresses (unfortunately, I don’t keep up with live-action Japanese films as much as I used to, so I thought of her as she’s well-known in the West.) Click here to view an awesome fancast of Ghost in The Shell featuring Japanese actors.
This Could Be Really Good Or Really, Really Bad
Regardless how you feel on the subject of race swapping (the practice of switching the racial background of a character in an adapted work), it will be interesting to see how Ghost In The Shell translates with real-life actors. We’ll either get something also the lines of Dragonball Evolution (aka Dragonball: The High School Years) or a really fun and adequate Americanized version of Japanese Pop Culture in the tune of Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, which was adapted from the manga, All You Need Is Kill. Both of these examples changed the racial identity of the main and/or supporting characters to white.
What say you? Do you feel that the racial background of a character in a work of fiction should stay the same or is it no big deal to change it to something else? While you’re pondering this question be just to checked out the original Ghost in the Shell film available at the Arlington Library and tell me what you think!
Written by Amina D., YTC Intern
1/31/2015 by Add a Comment Share this:
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