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Escape the Ordinary Genre Challenge 4: Nonfiction

There is not a subject that nonfiction materials don’t cover! From biographies to decorating books, to travelogues; nonfiction has it all. At the library, you will find these books under the Dewey decimal system with a number starting from 0 – 9 on its spine.

Why do we love nonfiction? Our library staff shares why:

Ellen, Reading Corps site coordinator reads non-fiction because real-life stories can be “just as interesting as made-up ones!” For example, the book Hope recounts the real life story of the women who were held captive in Cleveland.

Echoing Ellen’s sentiment, Wes, literacy coordinator, recommends the book Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk.

Cristen, library service manager, reads nonfiction because “these books inspire me to look at my life and the world around me.” She suggests the book, Things a Little Bird Told Me, by one of the creators of social media platform Twitter.

Melissa, Virtual Services Supervisor, says, “I like reading books like Freakonomics, Tribes, or even Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up because they show me the world in a different way from my own and teach me something true and meaningful. Even recipe books can do that!”

There are so many reasons to love nonfiction. What are some of yours? Read a nonfiction book and tell us the title in the comments below to be entered into our genre challenge!

6/30/2015 by Lisa Smant Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: The English Girl

International in scope, seasoned Israeli spy, assassin, Gabriel Allon, is asked by the Prime Minister of England to locate and pay the ransom for a beautiful woman, his mistress, who has been kidnapped.  Beauty is not her only asset as she also has political ambitions of her own.

The reader is taken on a whirlwind trip from Corsica to France to Russia as Gabriel attempts to second guess his prey using various resources and friends to help along the journey.  Suspense is palpable as the thorough research planned by Gabriel keeps the mysterious circumstances alive.  The path to victory is well outlined, choreographed, all taking place in unfriendly circumstances. Surprises along the pathway to answers change the direction of pursuit as vengeance becomes the final goal.

Mystery, intrigue international in destination, hint of romance, and the surprise of discovery all lead to a page turner.

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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6/29/2015 by Add a Comment Share this:

Escape the Ordinary Genre Challenge 3: Young Adult

Young adult (YA) or teen fiction was first defined in the 1960s by the American Library Association as books for 12-18 year olds about protagonists ages 12-18. Since the 1960s this genre has gone through many makeovers. In the 1970s and 80s readers explored real life topics in books by Judy Blume and Lois Duncan; later in the 1980s and 90s readers devoured mysteries by Christopher Pike and the series of all high school series: Sweet Valley High. In the 2000s readers experienced vampire books like Blood and Chocolate and of course the Twilight books. Romance and coming of age has always been a likable theme, especially with current authors like Meg Cabot and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Today young adult fiction has it all – utopian (The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld); dystopian (think end of the world like This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, which is one great zombie story); realistic fiction (all John Green, Sarah Dessen); and the list goes on. In the future, we look to plots that readers can relate to but have surprise twists like Grasshopper Jungle or I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson. YA readers are always up for adventure.

The genre has also hatched a new type of material called New Adult featuring protagonists aged 18-25. Plots here often deal with a protagonist entering college or professional life, but all genres including science fiction and fantasy are represented.

It has been reported that up to 55% of the young adult book market is comprised of adults aged 30-44. A lot of adult readers like YA simply because the publishing world allows teen authors to take risks that are not often explored in adult fiction. A lot of literature trends take their cues from YA and then move to other adult audiences. For example, check out some of Rainbow Rowell’s books! YA books also often end with a feeling of hope and optimism and that feeling is universal to readers of any age.

If you are an adult YA fan, think about joining the library’s Forever Young Adult book club for adults who love all things YA!

To enter our contest, comment below with your young adult titles read to be entered into our prize drawing! An email address is required but will not be published. This will allow us to contact you if you win the at the end of the summer reading program.

Let us know what you are reading!

Escape the Ordinary Genre Challenge 2: The Classics

Challenge 2 – The Classics

What makes a book a classic? Merriam Webster defines classic as

  • something has come to be considered one of the best of its kind
  • something is an example of excellence
  • used to describe something that has been popular for a long time

Many books we consider classics come from the Western Canon, which is a list of fiction books traditionally accepted as great works of literature, but many genres have books that stand the test of time. For example, The Secret Garden is a classic example of children’s literature, just as The Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic mystery.  Classic books explore many topics and backgrounds including Sherlock Holmes’ London:

School Library Journal calls the book, “the best Sherlock Holmes story in the canon and one of the classic all-time mystery novels.”

Or read about the industrial revolution in The Jungle which tells readers “the horrifying conditions of the Chicago stockyards are revealed through this narrative of a young immigrant's struggles in America.”  - (Baker & Taylor)

And To Kill a Mockingbird explores life in the South in the 1930s. Called “skilled, unpretentious, and totally ingenious” by the New Yorker, this books is regarded as one of the best works of 20th Century American Literature.

Below are some of our favorites. What are some of yours? Comment below with a title to be entered into our Escape the Ordinary Genre Challenge 2.


May 2015 Good Grounds for Books Report

Welcome fellow readers!

ALLISON started us off with two trade paperbacks in a comic book series she’s reading. A trade paperback is about the length of a graphic novel, but is a collection of comic issues. She read Saga Volume Two and Saga Volume Three, about star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of an intergalactic war, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. She also read Mark Adams’ Meet Me in Atlantis, a nonfiction book about various theories for the famous lost city. Some theories are “out there” but others have very plausible evidence. Next she reported on The Secret Place by Tana French. Allison is not normally a fan of mysteries but enjoyed the relationships between the murder suspects, a group of teenage girls at an Irish boarding school. Finally, she described Paolo Baccigalupi’s The Water Knife. This is a post-apocalyptic near-future novel set in the American Southwest during an extreme drought. She enjoyed it but it reminded her of other novels instead of feeling fresh and original.

RON is on a Jeffrey Archer kick. After reading Mightier Than the Sword, he decided to start the Clifton Chronicles from the beginning. These novels follow Harry, a dock worker who earned a scholarship to an exclusive boys school. Ron has found the series cleverly written and reminiscent of Downton Abbey. He’s finished Only Time Will Tell, set around the time that Hitler declares war, and now is working on Sins of the Father. Up next in the series is Best Kept Secret, Be Careful What You Wish For, and then Mightier Than the Sword again. Ron’s not sure if he’ll reread this last novel once he back around to it, but he may decide to!

BARBARA has researched John Grisham after reading more of his works. She enjoyed Gray Mountain and likes getting to know more about the author. She also reported on Casebook by Mona Simpson and Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. She described Wonder as a sweet YA novel about a bright boy with facial deformities. We discussed the fact that R.J. Palacio joined other female YA authors who write about boys and are published by their first initials instead of their first names. Like Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling and The Outsiders' S.E. Hinton, perhaps Polasio or her publishers thought boys would be more likely to read books by an author they couldn’t tell was a woman. Barbara also told us about Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home, about an elderly woman who convinces her hairstylist to take her on a trip home. For nonfiction, Barbara read Dave Egger’s Zeitoun, which is the account of a Muslim immigrant’s horrible experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans. Barbara said this book was well-written and that no one could have made up what happened to Mr. Zeitoun.

RONNIE’s first book was Motive by Jonathan Kellerman. This novel’s main character works with the San Francisco police department. Ronnie found the book a fascinating look at a psychiatrist’s home and work life. Like some other members, she also read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. She described the novel’s events as the type of things that happen without a social contract or network, but enjoyed the intertwining historical and modern storylines. Her final book was Lisa Genova’s Inside the O’Briens. Ronnie told us that this author is a neuroscientist who chooses a medical condition and writes a novel about how it impacts people. This novel is about Huntington’s disease. Ronnie found it very much worth reading.

SANDY told us about Candice Bergen's autobiography A Fine Romance. This focuses on her life during and after filming Murphy Brown. Sandy found it a gossipy, interesting read. True to that description, we had a brief but fascinating discussion on Candice Bergen as an actress and person before getting to Sandy’s next book! This was Missoula: Rape and The Justice System in a College Town, by Jon Krakauer. Although the book focuses on Missoula, Sandy said she was sure it could have been set in any college town throughout the country. It was a hard read given the topic, but grippingly interesting due to its truth.

BETTY’s first read was Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray, in which women literally (instead of just socially) turn invisible at menopause. She found it an exceedingly sad premise but ripe for funny moments, such as invisible women going without makeup or clothes in order to be unbothered as they run errands. She read a few mysteries so mindless she forgot their titles and authors, and then wrapped up by telling us about Prairie Chicken Kill. This is part of a series about Truman Smith, a fictional detective in East Texas and is written by Bill Crider.

LINDA described Simone St. James’ An Inquiry Into Love and Death and The Other Side of Midnight. These mysteries are set after World War I and focus on ghosts. However, without today’s technology, the characters are limited in how they can prove or disprove the ghost’s existence. She also read The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick. This is about smart people with few social skills; Linda thought it was a quirky, feel-good novel. Her last book was Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street, which focuses on middle class families in Brooklyn. The characters are mired in poverty and have few options for their lives. Linda thought the families were interesting and thoughtfully written.


TONY joined other members in reading Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. He also read A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler. This literary fiction novel has no shooting and no killing, so Tony nearly put it aside! He kept coming back to the story, though. It describes a family’s life and Tony particularly enjoyed Abby, the focal character. He is currently reading Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis. This nonfiction book deals with the stock market, particularly the increasing number of public and private exchanges. Tony is enjoying it so far and learning a lot.

DAVID’s first report was on Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. This nonfiction murder mystery tells the story of a young black boy killed in a large city. There are sadly many similar deaths throughout the nation. Leovy suggests that this boy’s case was only investigated because his father was a police detective. David also told us about Reunited, which the Arlington Public Library does not own. This nonfiction book is by Pamela Slaton, an investigative genealogist. She specializes in adoption records and solving impossible cases. Few of us had heard of this profession before, so it was an interesting book to learn about! Finally, David filled us in on the latest in the Safehold Series by David Weber, Midst Toil and Tribulation. This series takes place in outer space, but the characters do not have modern technology. David thought it was an interesting look at 1800s technology.

JOYCE told us about Oxygen by Carol Wiley Cassella. This is about an anesthesiologist dealing with the death of a patient. Joyce was surprised by the ending! She also read French Lessons by Peter Mayle, an enjoyable look at festivals, food, rituals, and other special events in France. In the past, Joyce has read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman. Based on enjoying that novel, she picked up Looking for Me, by the same author. It is always good to find an author whose works you enjoy. Joyce found Looking for Me to be uplifting and enjoyable.

ELIZABETH reported via email on two books the Library does not own. First was The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. It is a coming of age story of an extraordinary young man in South Africa. He was raised among white nationalists and Nazi sympathizers but grew beyond this with help from a variety of people. Elizabeth said the book has an exciting plot but still addresses weighty issues. She also read Plumb by Maurice Gee. The novel is based on one of the author’s grandfathers. It focuses on Plumb’s family, which included ten children! Elizabeth is reading this one again to figure out the symbolism involved with Plumb’s hearing aide – she knows it must mean something, but isn’t sure what just yet.

LAUREEN was visiting family but let us know what she’d been reading. First was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. She bought a copy at an Estate Sale and can see why this tender, realistic story won the Pulitzer. She also liked the wrap-up to the story at the end—again, quite realistic. She also finished a 1928 copy of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. She bought this elderly book at the last Friends sale and was surprised to see the book format. There is a 2” margin at the bottom of the page, so each page is about the size of an e-book screen. She found it quite unusual and appealing, especially getting a glimpse at 18th Century Hispanic culture. She must have missed this along the line, in school, but is glad to have read it now.

PETE read another book Laureen found at the estate sale, Work Song by Ivan Doig. He has read a couple other books by Doig, who was a Montana author. He passed away in Seattle last April. Work Song is about a young man who travels to Butte, MT, in 1919, to make his fortune. At that time in history, Butte was called the Richest Hill on earth because of the silver and copper mines there. The young man, surprisingly, does not go to work in the mines. He is, at first, hired by a funeral home and then a library. It turns out he is suspected as being associated with the union movement that is trying to make life better for the miners. Anyway…kind of different!


Good Grounds for Books will next meet on Wednesday June 17 in the Woodland West Community Room. Thanks again for coming or reading about our group.

—Laureen the (retired) Librarian, Good Grounds for Books Leader

6/8/2015 by Add a Comment Share this:

Escape the Ordinary Genre Challenge 1

Challenge 1: Graphic Novels

Definition: Graphic novels are stand-alone stories using sequential art work, published in a book format. 

A brief history: Graphic novels have come a long way in the past twenty years. Years ago, the format was considered by many to not be “real literature” but when the popularity grew, traditional publishers took notice.The format became mainstream by the late 90s and 2000s. Today graphic novels can no longer be ignored. Topics range from superhero adventure to cancer survival. They are now a major part of any library collection and well respected by librarians, literature experts and teachers alike.

There are lots of different types of graphic novels – manga (Japanese style – read upside down and right to left), nonfiction, science fiction, autobiographical and more. Graphic novels are not just for kids – they are written for elementary age children to adults. Challenge yourself to try one of these books!

Check out the starred review from Booklist for Jerusalem:

Jerusalem delivers a collection of vignettes and anecdotes culled from a year spent in the contentious holy city of Jerusalem with his wife—an administrator for Doctors Without Borders—and their two kids, Alice and Louis. He chronicles the broader political and religious tensions in the area (it would be impossible not to) but also focuses on the day-to-day nature of acclimating to a new city and culture, depicting the madcap adventures of getting the kids to and from school, the endless search for a good playground, and the difficulty of keeping the schedule straight of which days Jewish, Muslim, or Christian shops are open. His art is fun and reflects his animation roots, with characters able to convey reaction and emotion with nuance even without dialogue. The subtle use of color, mostly employed as washes or for emphasis, suits Delisle's linework well. Throughout his narrative, Delisle manages the deft trick of delivering humor, history, insight, and information without straying into preachy or reactionary territory. His role as an Everyman observer shines though in such a way that the entire book feels comfortably conversational: we are able to empathize with the expat feeling of being outside a culture, but we also see clearly how the human condition makes us all universally similar. On the whole, this beautiful book works as an unforgettable travelogue that delves deeply into finding connections and humanity in a routinely conflicted area, and is Delisle's best work yet. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

What graphic novel will you be reading for the genre challenge? Post below in the comments below and be entered in for our Escape the Ordinary Genre Reading Challenge prize drawing! Feel free to write suggestions for others as well!



Escape the Ordinary Genre Reading Challenge

Escape the ordinary this summer by stepping out of your box and exploring new genres with our reading challenges! Pick up a book, eBook, or audiobook in each of our six reading challenge genres. Each week, post a comment on our Reader’s Recommend blog for a chance to win a prize at the end of the summer. 
Binge read (or listen!) to as many books (or audiobooks!) as you want in the genre, but only the first comment submitted per genre challenge will be counted.
An email address is required, but will not be published. (We need a way to get in contact with the winner!) This contest is only open to adults and you’ll need an Arlington Public Library card in order to be eligible to win.
Categories include: choose your own, classics, graphic novels, non-fiction, mysteries, and young adult.
Follow us on social media to see what library staff is reading and to see some of our favorite titles for the summer!
6/1/2015 by Julie W. Add a Comment Share this:

New Releases for May

May not only brings rain, but also lots of books!

5/28/2015 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

May's Books to Movies

Here are the books being adapted to movies this month! You might have come across these classics in English class, but now you can see a new version of them in theaters. Check out a copy first and remind yourself what's going on. Publisher's summaries are listed below. Click on a cover to put one on hold or find it in a branch near you!

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

In theaters May 1

Bathsheba Everdene is a prosperous farmer in Hardy’s fictional Wessex county whose strong-minded independence and vanity lead to disastrous consequences for her and the three very different men who pursue her: the obsessed farmer William Boldwood, dashing and seductive Sergeant Frank Troy, and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak.

Despite the violent ends of several of its major characters, Far from the Madding Crowd is the sunniest and least brooding of Hardy’s great novels, as Bathsheba and her suitors move through a beautifully realized late-nineteenth-century agrarian landscape that is still almost untouched by the industrial revolution and the encroachment of modern life.

- (Random House, Inc.)


Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

You'll enjoy this if you want to see Gemma Bovery, in theaters May 29

Emma, a passionate dreamer raised in the French countryside, is ready for her life to take off when she marries the decent, dull Dr. Charles Bovary. Marriage, however, fails to live up to her expectations, which are fueled by sentimental novels, and she turns disastrously to love affairs. The story of Emma’s adultery scandalized France when Madame Bovary was first published. Today, the heartbreaking story of Emma’s financial ruin remains just as compelling.

In Madame Bovary, his story of a shallow, deluded, unfaithful, but consistently compelling woman living in the provinces of nineteenth-century France, Gustave Flaubert invented not only the modern novel but also a modern attitude toward human character and human experience that remains with us to this day.

- (Random House, Inc.)

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5/13/2015 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Fiction, Movies

April 2015 Good Grounds for Books Report

Fellow readers,

      Thanks for coming to Good Grounds this month. We had 15 people: a high for our group. We had some lively discussion, as usual, but we tried to limit ourselves to books read. For those of you unable to come, you’ll be given quite a variety of reading choices by our members this month. Now for the April book report…

LAUREEN finished 3 books this month. 2 were read for research and 1 was just for pleasure. Laureen got an autobiography/memoir by Russell Baker that won a non-fiction Pulitzer prize in the early 80s. Its title is Growing Up. The story details a childhood in the Depression and Baker had less than ideal family. Despite growing up in poverty, Baker was able to go to college and make a good life for himself as a newspaper columnist and husband and father. Laureen borrowed this paperback from her TCC writing instructor to get insight into living through the Depression as a young person. Next Laureen read Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson. This 2007 title may be a monthly pick in a bookclub that Laureen visits in the fall. She really wouldn’t classify this book as a full biography. Bryson repeatedly makes the point that very little is verifiable about Shakespeare’s life. What he does do a good job with is setting the scene for Shakespeare’s genius. He talks about Shakespeare’s father, royalty (Elizabeth I and James I,) the plague and the mechanics of 17th Century theater. Laureen enjoyed seeing how Shakespeare broke the rules of his time and was surprised to read that Shakespeare’s sonnets were written about a man. Bryson also debunked the conspiracy theorists who say William Shakespeare couldn’t have written all those plays and sonnets. One of the reasons given was Shakespeare’s idiolect—his habits of word usage. Shakespeare’s style was unique to him and couldn’t have been copied by any other playwrights of his day. Bryson’s signature sarcastic humor does not come out much in this book but it is enjoyable to read-after you slog through the first couple chapters. The just-for-fun book that Laureen read was Elizabeth Peters’ final book, A River in the Sky. Although this was her last book, Peters set this book out of time sequence from her prior Amelia Peabody title. Laureen read this book as a e-book and she enjoyed the long wrap up of the plot and the surprise ending. Laureen again mentioned Peters’ ability to use vocabulary from the early 1900s period, in which this series is set. She looked up such words as qui vive, cynosure and celerity and she looked up the Seven Sleepers myth that was mentioned in the course of the story.

RON’s first title of the day was The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. He picked this fiction book up at the suggestion of a friend who said he couldn’t put it down. The APL catalog lists the subject of this book as Christian prophecy. Ron thought the biblical connections were often too big a stretch. He could and did put this book down. His second read was more successful. It was Mightier than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer. It is the fifth title in the Clifton Chronicles series and Ron and some of his fellow readers suggest this series be read in numerical order. The first title in this series is Only Time Will Tell. Ron characterized these British stories as downscale (as far as wealth is concerned) Downton Abbey, so they are good family melodramas.

PAUL read author Bill Bryson this month. He shared an “old” title, A Walk in the Woods: rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Paul thought this book was serious, yet it also contained good humor. He was also impressed by the geological research that Bryson did for this 1998 book. Paul’s most challenging read of the month was The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. It is a post-apocalyptic story in which most of mankind is wiped out in a pandemic. A surviving pilot picks up a radio signal and then risks his life to search out other survivors. The challenge in this book is the style. There are no indentations on paragraphs and no ending--the story just stops. There is virtually no character description, either. Paul said he was half way through the book before he got used to it.

ELIZABETH graciously gave away some of the books from her family library. Thank you, Elizabeth! Laureen thinks they were all gone to new readers by the end of our meeting. Elizabeth brought 2 titles to the table in April. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: a Novel by Fannie Flagg has already been discussed by our group so Elizabeth didn’t go into detail on that book, although she enjoyed it. The title she did discuss was The Good Luck of Right Now: a Novel by Matthew Quick. One of the reviews in the APL catalog called this 2014 book is a spiritually fueled midlife coming-of-age novel. Elizabeth thought it funny, uplifting and wise. She also mentioned that the main character reminded her of Forrest Gump. The story is told in the form of letters written to Richard Gere. Online reviews of this title certainly contain a list of quirky characters. Sounds like fun! Apparently author Matthew Quick is well-known for his 2008 book, The Silver Linings Playbook, which also became a popular movie.

SANDY joined some of our other members in reading John Grisham’s book The Painted House, but she did it by audiobook. Sandy mentioned that this book is also a movie. Though she listened to it, Sandy said she probably would have preferred reading this novel in print. The story was inspired by Grisham’s own childhood. Sandy enjoys reading memoirs, so her second read in April was Alexandra Fuller’s new nonfiction book, Leaving Before the Rains Come. Ms. Fuller was raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Sandy says this book definitely gives you a “flavor” of Africa and she thinks the writer has an interesting way of thinking. Fuller eventually met an American man and they married and moved to the U. S., where she had to deal with culture shock and then divorce. Fuller uses this story to reassess her life.

RONNIE’s first mentioned book has an interesting premise—that women can become invisible. The main action in Calling Invisible Women: a Novel by Jeanne Ray comes in the form of a midlife crisis-that a woman’s family takes her for granted and doesn’t even look at her. Although that sounds somber, Ronnie assured us the book is funny. She also read the nonfiction book The Patient Will See You Now: the Future of Medicine is in Your Hands by Eric Topol. The basic point that Ronnie got out of this book is that patients need to control their own medical destinies. Author Topol is a respected physician but he feels the medical profession has been too authoritarian and that the Internet has revolutionized healthcare. On a similar note, Ronnie is now reading Lisa Genova’s latest novels, Inside the O’Briens: a novel. This author is also a neuroscientist and she has written previous novels such as Love Anthony (autism) and Still Alice (Alzheimer’s.) Genova uses her medical knowledge to explore the resilience of the human spirit. In this latest novel, the family of an Irish Catholic policeman has to deal with the possibility of developing Huntington’s disease, like their Dad. Our group will be anxious to hear how this latest book rates with Genova’s previous works.

BETTY in our last meeting was reminded of an author she previously enjoyed reading—Elizabeth Peters. At the last Friend of the Library booksale, Betty picked up two Peters books that aren’t in the Amelia Peabody series. They are, instead, in the Vicky Bliss series and the two books are The Laughter of Dead Kings and Night Train to Memphis. The character Vicky Bliss is an art historian and sleuth, who works in Munich but most of the stories are set in Egypt. Betty thinks there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the Bliss books but she still enjoys them. They almost read like travelogues. After hearing Ron talk about Joel Rosenberg titles, Betty decided to try Damascus Countdown. This fiction story is about the after effects of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Betty thought Rosenberg’s story a strange combination of espionage, the military, a love story and all with a religious theme behind it. Betty thought Rosenberg most successful when writing the espionage part of this story. She thought the love story “sappy.” Although Laureen doesn’t have a title written down, Betty’s preference for mysteries took her to the Martin Beck series in April. Two Swedish authors wrote this series in the past. One example of their work is Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö. It was originally published in 1967. The APL book is part of the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard series that republished this title in 1993. Betty thinks these books are well-written and lighthearted.

ARLENE brought us the most unique title of the day, Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion by Derek Hough with Kellie Pickler. Author Hough is a five time champion on “Dancing with the Stars” TV program. He was bullied as a child but he turned that experience into something better. Arlene especially liked his insight into performing and the anxiety caused by getting up in front of people. According to the APL write up on this book, Hough shared his secrets of learning to dance: connection, respect and cooperative commitment.  Another sentence that Arlene quoted was “Never be the best in the room” because you always need to learn from somebody else. Arlene is now reading Field of Prey by John Sandford, which is book 24 in the Prey series. It is a murder mystery set in Minnesota.

TONY gave us the group’s latest report on the bestseller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. He gave us a man’s perspective, however. His first tip was to read the title closely. After reading 3 or 4 chapters of Hawkins’ book, he didn’t know what was going on, so he rethought the title and then proceeded to understand the story better. Several other readers in the room agreed with him, in this respect. Tony also felt the female main character was complaining and whiney. He still managed to think the book was interesting and moving and good overall. Tony finished the nonfiction book he told us about at the last meeting, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. Although he “didn’t get any richer after reading this,” Tony did manage to understand what led up to the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Although the conclusions of this book are dismal, Tony felt it was still worth the read. He enjoyed the humor, if not all the details of the crisis and the big investors.

SHEILA was new to our group this month, but Sheila came prepared with the title, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. This 2012 book tells the story of a man who undergoes a personal crisis and takes a 600 mile walk while he searches for peace and acceptance. Sheila thought this man’s journey interesting. She read the book for another bookclub and shared it with us.

DAVID brought a science fiction title to the table as usual. He read 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies by Eric Flint with Charles Gannon. This book is the follow-up to 1632 which APL owns as an audio E-book. These 2 books are part of the Ring of Fire series. In 1636, David feels Flint is most successful with his description of an old-time sailing Navy. It is interesting to note that the character who has time-travelled back to the era of Dutch and Spanish control of the high seas, is sent to the Caribbean by an Admiral to secure oil for the fleet and “up-time machines.” David also enjoys the Castle TV program so, in April, he tried another Richard Castle book, Raging Heat. This story is part of the Nikki Heat series. Although David says it is a mindless murder mystery, with some cheesy writing, it still helps him visualize the TV characters better. We all need a book like that, once in a while!

JOYCE shared a nonfiction book, The Four Agreements: a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz. This 138 page book of Toltec philosophy is full of common sense and simple psychology. Examples of some of this philosophy’s tenets show how to enhance your own experience of the world, such as: be impeccable, say only what you mean and don’t make assumptions. Joyce especially enjoyed reading Anne Tyler’s new book, A Spool of Blue Thread. Tyler is known for insightful writing and Joyce agrees. Many other readers do, too, since there are 13 books out and 37 holds in the offing, as this is written. Joyce said this a family story with parents interacting with their extended family. Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winner for previous work. A reviewer said Tyler often writes stories which accentuate the nature of family life. In this case, the Whitshank group must look into future care for their aging matriarch and her beloved pet.

PETE brought a twisting suspense story to the Good Grounds group in April. He finished Peter Swanson’s latest story, The Kind Worth Killing For: A Novel. This same author wrote The Girl with a Clock for a Heart: A Novel in 2014. Swanson’s latest story is a reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s work, Strangers on a Train. That book, published in 1950, was made into an Alfred Hitchcock movie in 1951—Strangers on a Train. APL’s copy of the movie was republished in 1997 and is now out on Blue-Ray, as well.  Highsmith’s Strangers was her first novel and she proceeded to write more novels about sociopaths, who are so subtle, they pass unnoticed. Swanson’s new story begins on an airplane, rather than a train and Pete says an accidental encounter has sobering and lethal consequences. He also warned, “don’t read this if you are engaged to be married!” Besides this story, Pete read Bill Crider’s book, The Prairie Chicken Kill: a Truman Smith mystery, that he bought at the recent Friends of the Library booksale. Crider’s fiction takes place in Texas. Pete felt much of this work was tongue-in-cheek and he thought the characterization interesting.


KATIE, a new member, brought a book she is currently reading, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. This author’s book was recently turned into a TV movie, which Katie has recorded but has not watched yet. She prefers to read the book first. Katie says it is an intense story of four ancient Jewish women in Masada. There are assassins in the story and Katie enjoys tracking one of the main women characters. Our new member briefly mentioned some previous reads—Unbroken: a WWII Airman’s Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption/Laura Hillenbrand and Under the Dome: a Novel by Stephen King. Katie thought this large book fascinating but she found the TV adaptation Under the Dome, boring.

LINDA’s best read from her April list was All Our Worldly Goods by Irène Némirovsky with Sandra Smith. A reviewer said this novel prefigures Némirovsky’s Suite Francaise, which was published 60 years after the writer’s death. The author was a Jewish émigré who left her birth country during the Russian Revolutuion and moved to France. She died in a Auschwitz in 1942, so both her works were published posthumously.  Némirovsky’s fiction takes place during WWI. According to reviewers, her body of work contains drama, heartbreak and it makes telling observations. Linda called it a beautiful book. Linda read another book in the WWI time, An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd. It is a Bess Crawford mystery but Linda found it disappointing, with too many AWOL characters. She thinks this title is not one of Todd’s best. Another mystery was on Linda’s list and that is The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café by Alexandra McCall Smith. This book in #15 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. The stories take place in Botswana and Linda thinks these McCall Smith books show an interesting viewpoint. She also borrowed Graeme Simsion’s new Rosie book—The Rosie Effect: a Novel and read it and agreed with our members that this book is not as good as the original The Rosie Project: a Novel. Linda said it is funny toward the end but really not worth the ride.

After all members of our group had their say, Sandy mentioned a new C-Span3 series on the 1st Ladies that plays on Sunday nights. Laureen watched the first one and enjoyed it. The program, is set up more like a talk show than a straight documentary. Two experts answer questions about the 1st lady (Martha Washington on the initial show) and short documentary clips add to the venue, which runs for about 1 ½ hours.

Good Grounds for Books will meet next meeting on Wednesday May 20 in the Woodland West Community Room. Thanks again for coming or reading about our group. You all are special people in my book.

—Laureen the (retired) Librarian, Good Grounds for Books Leader