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Staff Pick: Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

Agnes has been kept in the dark for months before she is transferred from one prison to the next. In the closet used as her cell, she was starving, dehydrated, bruised, and so lonely she started to wonder if she was losing her mind. She had a hard time telling the difference between sleeping and waking. Every time she did wake came the crushing moment when she remembered her lover Natan was dead. Every time, that memory was followed by the knowledge that she killed him.

Agnes is brought out of her closet, past a jeering crowd come to see the murderess in their midst, and across Iceland’s countryside. She hasn't felt sunlight in a long time. Her jailors don’t tell her where they’re going, but Agnes recognizes the moss-covered hills and the old lava flows. After her mother left her, she bounced across the valley from one farm to the next as a migrant worker. She knows there are no jails in the area. Even the house where Agnes is to be kept until her execution is familiar. She has lived there before.

Hannah Kent’s novel Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes’s last months through the eyes of the family assigned to give her room and board, the young priest serving as her spiritual guide, and Agnes herself.

This novel is a fictionalized version of the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland. Agnes was working as a servant in 1829 when she and a farmhand were accused of killing their master and another man, then burning the evidence. Burial Rites makes Agnes a tragic figure. We learn the details of the deaths in bits and pieces. The harsh Icelandic winters make life difficult for everyone but the very richest, but Agnes lived a life harder than most: abandoned as a child, and betrayed repeatedly as she grew older. She did not have the luxury of easy choices.

Despite its bleak story line, Burial Rites paints a beautiful picture of the Icelandic landscape. The stormy seas, fierce weather, and volcanic touches upon the landscape made me want to visit. It is fiction, but Kent put her research on Agnes’s life into the book. Chapters often begin with quotations from real documents about Agnes’s trial and case. Check this book out now to get a new look at a historical figure, or to learn about her for the first time.

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10/22/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Fiction, Mysteries

New Releases October 21- 27

Publishing phenomenon and Mississippi lawyer John Grisham's new novel Gray Mountain, is about a displaced lawyer and small town secrets-another sure fire bestseller!

10/19/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

October's Books to Movies

Here are the books being adapted into movies this October! It's a mixed bag of mysteries, thrillers, and family fun. Check one out before or after you go to the theater to see how they compare. Below are publisher summaries for the books. Click on the cover pictures to find a copy in branch near you or to place one on hold.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

In theaters since October 3

Marriage can be a real killer. One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

- (by Random House, Inc.)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst

In theaters since October 10

He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. When he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard and by mistake dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running. He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Nothing at all was right. Everything went wrong, right down to lima beans for supper and kissing on TV.


What do you do on a day like that? Well, you may think about going to Australia. You may also be glad to find that some days are like that for other people too.

- (by Simon and Schuster)

Before I Go To Sleep, by S. J. Watson

In theaters October 31

"As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . . ."

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life."

- (by HARPERCOLL)

Horns, by Joe Hill

In theaters October 31

"At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more: he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death changed all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look: a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . . ."

- (by HARPERCOLL)

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Ancestry: Library Edition

Ancestry.com is the world's largest online family history resource home to billions of historical records. It has digitized, indexed and put records online since 1996. It has more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories. With a customer friendly search function, Ancestry Library Edition is in libraries across the world, providing access to historical data from the 1500s to the 2000s.

10/15/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

New Releases October 14-20

At sixteen Neil Patrick Harris was starring in his own sitcom-at 41 he has already won an Emmy and a Tony-his new biography hits the shelves this week!



10/12/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: Second suns, two doctors and their amazing quest

Drs. Ruit and Palin are two very unlikely partners: personalities and lifestyles diametrically opposite. Surprisingly enough, they work together because the one thing that binds them is their work ethic, their morality for mankind, their commitment to saving the vision of the less fortunate of the Third World Countries.

Dr. Ruit is straight-laced, moody at times, more reticent with social contact but a devoted and loving family man. He is extremely dexterous with the eye instruments he developed, the surgical technique he created, and totally devoted to saving the vision of as many disadvantaged people as possible. The people of Nepal revere him. He is sensitive to the politics of the times committing the leadership of the land in his attempt to attract the funding necessary to build a local teaching hospital available to all who need help. His vision for world-wide, professional involvement knows no end and keeps him motivated to keep growing and keep enticing quality physicians who share his enthusiasm for helping the blind.

Dr. Palin is friendly, outgoing, thrives with difficult challenges, loves the great outdoors, markets the vision community worldwide with his social contacts to bring in much needed funds to build hospitals and teach doctors willing to learn and commit their lives to making a difference. He sandwiches his devotion to mountain climbing in between his commitment to working with Dr. Ruit, working for the university in Utah, managing a family and 3 children, and traveling, spreading his life pretty thin at times.

Three-fourths of the vision problems affecting sight can be corrected! The problem is that the majority of the people of extremely impoverished, Third World Countries such as Nepal, Africa, and China can’t afford to have their sight corrected. These doctors travel to far-reaching mountain communities located in the Himalayas as well as disadvantaged African communities. The loss of sight affects the individual’s ability to work and take care of the family. What Drs. Ruit and Palin have done is make a difference in the quality of life for each individual they are able to help!

This story is one that will inspire the reader. I feel that the lives these doctors touch are forever changed! This story of commitment to helping others is a ray of sunshine, one that energizes my mind. Most of all, imagine, if you will, the possibilities open to the recipient of their care and then add the family to complete the vision!
Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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10/9/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Book Groups, Health

September 2014 Good Grounds for Books Report

 Fellow readers,

     I told my fellow readers last month that I read 3 books last month-highly unusual for me-but a lot of fun. I guess I could say that reading more is a good adjustment to retirement. I am so glad our group continues to me, even though I am now an official volunteer. I noticed all the APL book clubs, including ours, was in the city’s fall issue of the Parks and Recreation Department magazine, “Naturally Fun.” Our group already knows that reading is a natural enjoyment and we share what we’ve read with each other to learn what is new, and to get a different perspective of literary works. I call that fun!  Here’s our report:

LAUREEN

    Laureen reported on a title she read as an e-book, The Art Forger: A Novel by Barbara A. Shapiro. APL owns this book in several forms.  It is a story about art reproduction and forgery and what we value most. One of the points made is that passionate art collectors can become amoral in the hunt to own classics. The story is quite clever and an infectious read. She also read the second in Jodi Barrows’ new Threads series, Threads of Home: A Quilting Story. It is a sweet, simple read. The plot certainly showed the difficulties families faced in frontier times in Texas. This book isn’t great but it was just what Laureen needed, at the time. The third book is a mystery, The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie. Laureen read this title because she attended this author’s presentation in late September, through the Keller Public Library. Crombie is from McKinney, so very much a local girl, although she has lived in England and Scotland. All her novels in this 16 part series take place there. Laureen liked the historical connections in this book because the action takes place in a section of London called Crystal Palace. A structure of that name was built in 1854 to house the Great Exhibition (somewhat like a World’s Fair.) Laureen enjoyed this story. After reading this book quickly she was slightly disappointed to hear, from the author, that the book’s title was not taken from Scottish singer Annie Lennox’s song “Walking on Broken Glass.” Ah well, that’s what she gets for trying to be too clever!

RON

   Ron brought our group two very different types of reads. The first was The Power of Habit: Why we Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. This author identifies the neurological processes behind behaviors in animals, people and corporations. It was published in 2012. In anticipation of our gubernatorial election, Ron got a copy of Wendy Davis’ book, Forgetting to Be Afraid: a Memoir and is now reading it. Ron may use this book as one the deciding factors in our forthcoming statewide election.

SANDY

    Our group often lends out personal copies of titles that we report on and Sandy borrowed The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton.  It is a story about family secrets and life changing events and Sandy said the secret is “a knockout!”

BETTY

      Mystery is Betty’s preferred genre and this month she chose Murder in Retribution by Anne Cleeland to report on. It is the second in the New Scotland Yard mystery series. An Irish woman detective marries her boss, Chief Inspector Lord Acton, and they investigate murders. In this book the inquiry is associated with Irish and Russian gangs. Book one in this series is Murder in Thrall. Betty got tired of repeated Irish expressions in this book and there are mixed reviews in the expanded views of this cataloging record.

RONNIE

    Someone gave Ronnie a copy of Ben Carson’s new book, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future but Ronnie couldn’t get through it.  She thought it too religious and too folksy. She also read Michael Crichton’s first novel, 5 PATIENTS which is not in the Arlington Public library’s catalog. This book circulated in our group from the swapping racks at Woodland West. The book was written in 1995 and is based on Crichton’s personal experience as a medical doctor in emergency rooms, operating rooms and hospital wards. Ronnie thought this read not-so-good. We hope she will have more luck with the book she was reading at the time of our meeting, Islands, by Anne River Siddons. Most of Siddons’ books take place in the Low Country of South Carolina.

LINDA

    Linda read a fascinating book that has appeared on recent bestseller lists—The Rosie Project: a novel by Graeme Simsion. The cataloging records says this plot is about “A socially awkward genetics professor who has never been on a second date sets out to find the perfect wife, but instead finds Rosie Jarman, a fiercely independent barmaid who is on a quest to find her biological father.” Linda found this reading delightful, heartwarming and funny. One of the subtitles in the review section of this cataloging record says “the art of love is never a science.” Linda’s second offering was Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. The plot sounds somewhat familiar—ballet dancer has an affair, gets pregnant, and marries another man. Linda says this indeed sounds like a soap opera but Shipstead is an excellent writer who did a lot with a trite plot.

DAVID

   True to form, David brought us a Science Fiction book to consider, Dune: the Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. This 2003 novel is not for the faint of heart, coming in at 701 pages, but David thinks it is well worth the trip. The Dune series has been continued by Frank Herbert’s son and his co-author Anderson. The plots revolve around revolt over robot overlords and the newer books are considered prequels. David thinks the younger Herbert writes better books than his dad. The second book David reported on and “thoroughly enjoyed” was Piers Anthony’s book, Shame of Man. According to the catalog annotations, “In the sequel to Isle of Woman, two lovers, reborn throughout the most turbulently savage eras, from the prehistoric European caves to the fallen paradise of Easter Island, struggle to preserve their family.” Anthony takes the same characters and puts them through different epochs as the storyline continues, so it is something of an historical novel. As of the Good Grounds meeting, David was reading (as an e-book) one of Bulfinch’s mythology books. There were 3 different books in this series—The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, and Legends of Charlegmagne. It sounded like David is reading the middle title since he just read King Arthur material. Sometimes all three of those titles are in one book, so that may be what David is reading. In any case, we’ll probably hear about this at our Oct. 15th meeting.

PETE

    Pete finished off the book he bought after a summer author presentation at the Southwest Branch.  He read The Littlest Hero by Dan Vanderburg. Pete liked this novel that takes place during the Texas Revolution better than the American Revolution book sold at the same presentation, Buckskin Scots. Vanderburg is a 6th generation Texan and he chose his home state for this historical fiction. It is a war story centered on a man who happens to be a midget, with jockey and circus experience, who is recruited for the war in Texas. Pete continued reading stories in an anthology of Science Fiction stories, plus he finished a PDF file of essays from Thomas Sowell, an Economist and former writer for the Washington Post.

ELIZABETH

    Elizabeth came to our meeting with quite of list of reads.  The first 3 have already been discussed so they will just be repeated here—The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. Next, Elizabeth read 2 young adult novels by John Green, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Elizabeth felt both books had similar themes—that high school aged boys got a new view on life through their relationships with interesting girls. The fifth read was Leaving Church: a Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. It is a story of one woman’s spirituality. The author is a former Episcopal priest who left her church, became a professor of world religions at Piedmont College and, eventually, found faith elsewhere. The last title shared, Censoring Queen Victoria: How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon by Yvonne M. Ward was perhaps the most unusual share on this Good Grounds day. According to Booklist, “For more than a century, Queen Victoria has been viewed through a distorted historical lens. After Victoria’s death, in 1901, Reginald Brett (Lord Esher) and Arthur Benson, two eccentric, relatively minor, and fundamentally ill-suited court factotums, were assigned the task of editing the queen’s voluminous correspondence—it is estimated she wrote an average of 2,500 words each day of her adult life—for public consumption. The result: they winnowed down 460 volumes into a mere 3. After gaining access to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle and growing more intrigued by what was left out and why, Ward presents the story of these men and their multilayered motivations for censoring out the all-too-human woman, wife, and mother hovering within the revered icon. This exciting and important piece of archival investigation fills in some enormous gaps in royal history and in Queen Victoria’s official biography.” This non-fiction book was published in April 2014.

JOYCE

   Joyce also read David and Goliath and was fascinated to read that Gladwell sees formulas in events and in people’s lives. The main book that Joyce wanted to talk about, however, was The Pearl that Broke Its Shell: A Novel by Nadia Hashimi. The novels tells the story of 2 women born in Afghanistan, 100 years apart, who are eerily similar in disguising themselves as boys in order to survive. This is Ms. Hashimi’s first novel. The title for the book comes from a myth.

OK, good reading, one and all.  Hope to see you in a couple weeks at 11 am on Oct. 15 at Woodland West. If you can’t make it, send me an email with your titles and I’ll be glad to relay them to our group. Take care.

Written by Laureen, Good Grounds for Books leader

New Releases October 7-October 13

John Sandford is back this week with a new Virgil Flowers novel, Deadline. In this outing Virgil takes on dognappers and a murderous school board in rural Minnesota.

10/5/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: James Madison, A Life Reconsidered

 The cornerstone of America is the Constitution and the accompanying Bill of Rights, the words written because of the amazing effort of James Madison. The document was written despite the dissent from the Congressional members: each individual in Congress representing a state with special problems and needs to match. Imagine standing in an airy congressional chamber, bickering evident, sometimes over a single word or phrase of words; or, arguing whether the size of your state will be affected by the use of a simple phrase! After all, there was a lot at stake. These were fully grown men sometimes looking for political glory, vanity, jealousy, or the wish to be remembered in future history books!! Madison tried to accommodate the members, mediate when helpful, looking for precise words that would meet the needs of this country and stand the test of time.

The author took 25 years to research this biography!! Fully evident, the book reads almost like a text as the words are laced together with direct quotes covering the American Revolution and vignettes of the early Founding Fathers: George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, with Madison’s influence evident throughout the beginning formative stages of this country. There were many difficult moments, personalities clashing for political gain, the path to becoming a Nation not smooth but filled with ruts and detours along the way as tempers flared, compromise the ultimate goal! It is interesting that the author made some observations without written documentation to back her up, and rather used what knowledge she had gained from her research. This suggests to me that some of Madison’s personal life was not written for reference. Perhaps, this was a way of protecting his privacy knowing that he was a public figure for the ages?

James Madison’s personality is enlarged to give the reader a portrait of a mild-mannered, stern appearing leader dressed in black: when, in fact, he was a warm, kind, fun-loving man with a wonderful sense of humor. He was well read, doing his homework for the Constitution by reading the successful histories of established, successful countries, using this as a model to guide the Nation toward a successful blueprint for all time. The words he spoke, the many articles he wrote using a pseudo name, helped give his intended words their full impact backed with the precedence of past history, to finalize the words for the Constitution. He was not looking for recognition rather wanting the personal satisfaction of a powerful recipe for success in this new Nation. Thomas Jefferson says he was the “greatest man who ever lived,” their friendship and collaboration a powerful influence on this country.

James Madison was an unlikely choice for President given the lifetime health issues he faced as he was an epileptic. Unfortunately at the time epilepsy was thought to represent a demonic disposition. Little was known about the illness and no treatment had been developed to help those with seizures. He tended to hide his illness from the public, making every effort to protect his privacy and that of his family. Madison’s amazing gift of words and wish to launch this Republic successfully superseded his health issues and he accomplished his goal.

For me, James Madison is a man of honor, one with a love for his country, and one who gave our country powerful words that have stood the test of time over the years. Thank you, Mr. Madison, for all you did for this country; praise, in my personal opinion, long overdue!!
Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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10/3/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:

Staff Picks: Mountaineering Books

Back in April I talked about caves and the reasons they fascinate me. Today I’d like to focus up in the sky and tell you about our mountaineering books. I don’t have any climbing experience myself. The tallest thing I’ve ever climbed has been Enchanted Rock.  I’ve gone up rock-climbing walls a couple of times: you know, the kind where gym staff attaches a rope to your harness and helps haul you up. I don’t actually want to go mountain climbing. I’ve gone on a couple of cave tours and wound up enjoying myself, but I don’t like heights.  I do love reading about it, though.

Mountaineering non-fiction reads like horror to me. The unpredictable landscape, the possibility of equipment failure, the potential for sabotage, and the knowledge that you’re too far away for help to arrive are all horrifying to think about. Add the possibility of falling a mile or more to your death and I have my scary book for the night.

Here are some of my favorite mountaineering books. There’s a range of non-fiction, including some focusing on the point of view of Sherpas and other native porters and guides; history; and adventure writing. There are also fiction and DVDs, if you’d rather watch than read. Check one out!

 

10/1/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this: