Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Library Loot ~ Nov. 26 - Dec. 2

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics ~ by Daniel James Brown, 2013, history (Washington state)
Nonfiction that reads like a novel.  Traces the story of an American rowing team from the University of Washington that defeated elite rivals at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics, sharing the experiences of their enigmatic coach, a visionary boat builder, and a homeless teen rower.  This book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.  The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.  The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home.  The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team.  They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together — a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.  Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, this is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times — the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant.
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death ~ by Annie Kagan, 2013
A few weeks after his death, William Cohen, aka Billy Fingers, woke his sister Annie at dawn.  "I'm drifting weightlessly through these glorious stars and galaxies and I feel a Divine Presence, a kind, loving, beneficent presence, twinkling all around me."  Billy's ongoing after-death communications take his sister on an unprecedented journey into the bliss and wonder of life beyond death.  Billy's profound, detailed description of the mystical realms he traverses, the Beings of Light that await him, and the wisdom he receives take the reader beyond the near-death experience.  Billy is, indeed, as Dr. Raymond Moody points out in his foreword, explaining the phenomenon we've known about since ancient times:  an afterworld walker.  To quote Billy:  "If I could give you a gift, it would be to find the glory inside yourself, beyond the roles and the drama, so you can dance of the game of life with a little more thythm, a little more abandon, a little more shaking-those-hips."
Turn of Mind ~ by Alice LaPlante, 2011, fiction
As the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, who lived down the block, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed from her hand.  Dr. White is the prime suspect and she herself doesn’t know whether she did it.  Told in White’s own voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these life-long friends — two proud, forceful women who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries.  As the investigation into the murder deepens and White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers:  Is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her to hide it?  A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to bits of reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss, this novel examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Readers' Workouts ~ on my own this week

Readers' Workouts is the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

Since this is Thanksgiving week, we knew our Friday workout class would not meet.  Our leader had a death in her family and the funeral was on Monday, which meant we would miss both sessions.  So I did the exercises in my apartment, on my own.  Using a chair, as we elders do in our group, may not seem like much exercise to young folks, but it does help with our balance and steadiness.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beginning ~ with a phone call

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death ~ by Annie Kagan, 2013
The Miami Dade Police left a message on my answering machine at nine in the morning.  "If you know William Cohen, please contact Sergeant Diaz at 305..."
Those opening words of the book make me want to keep reading to find out what happened.  Here's what the book is about:
Annie Kagan is not a medium or a psychic, and she did not die and come back to life.  In fact, when she was awakened by her deceased brother, she thought perhaps she had gone a little crazy.  Kagan shares the extraordinary story of her after death communications (ADC) with her brother Billy, who began speaking to her just weeks after his unexpected death.  One of the most detailed and profound ADC's ever recorded, Kagan's book takes the reader beyond the near-death experience.  Billy's vivid, real-time account of his on-going journey through the mysteries of death will change the way you think about life, death, and your place in the universe.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Library Loot ~ November 19-25

Lila ~ by Marilynne Robinson, 2014, fiction (Iowa)
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church — the only available shelter from the rain — and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life.  She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.  Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood.  Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them.  Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love.  When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Beginning ~ with a "furlough"

Gray Mountain ~ by John Grisham, 2014, fiction (Virginia)
The horror was in the waiting — the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers.  Co-workers ignored each other and hid behind locked doors.  Secretaries and paralegals passed along the rumors and refused eye contact.  Everyone was on edge, wondering, "Who might be next?"  The partners, the big boys, appeared shell-shocked and wanted no contact with their underlings.  They might soon be ordered to slaughter them.
Here's a summary of the story:
The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track — until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building.  Samantha, one of the "lucky" associates, is offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.  In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about.  Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to "help real people with real problems."  For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town.  And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.  Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal.  Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.
There are currently "641 holds on first copy returned of 402 copies" in the St. Louis County Library system.  I, of course, am number 641.  Oops!  Someone has just become number 642.  How, you ask, did I manage to copy the opening lines of this novel, if I don't have the book in my hand?  Straight off the internet.  Why am I so anxious to read it, when I don't normally read thrillers?  Because Roy Exum wrote about the book in connection with a similar situation happening near Chattanooga, Tennessee, my hometown:  ‘Gray Mountain’ and Dayton Mountain.  Comparing Grisham's thriller with the real-life coal company that, last month, got approval for coal mining operations for Dayton Mountain in Rhea County, Exum wrote:
My big hope is that the Rhea County School Board will make John Grisham’s latest thriller required reading.  It tears the top off the Big Coal industry and, if you think it is unfair for me to draw a parallel between a fictitious book and a coal-mining operation that will scalp Dayton Mountain, allow me to point out, "Fair is a place you take your favorite pig in the summertime."

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Library Loot ~ November 12-18

The UK's cover is beautiful, isn't it?
Flight Behavior ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2012, fiction (Tennessee), 9/10
I reported getting this novel as library loot exactly two years ago this week.  This re-loot is not because I failed to read the book the first time I got it, but because I'm to lead the discussion in December in my new book club.  I originally read this book with my online Book Buddies, going through it piece by piece with our own monarch butterfly expert, Mary/Zorro.  In the story, Dellarobia Turnbow comes upon-millions of monarch butterflies glowing like a "lake of fire" in a sheep pasture owned by her in-laws.  The find is immediately branded a miracle and promises a lucrative tourist season for the financially beleaguered Turnbows.  Dellarobia, who gave up college when she became pregnant at 17, takes a big leap when she starts working with the research team.  I especially liked learning about the possible catastrophe in the collapse of the continental ecosystem of the monarch butterflies.
The Age of Miracles ~ by Karen Thompson Walker, 2012, fiction
Though I didn't get this re-loot read when I first reported it in 2013, the premise behind it still fascinates me.  The rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow, with the days and nights growing longer and longer, gravity being affected, and the environment thrown into disarray.  It was named one of the best books of the year by People, O: The Oprah Magazine, Financial Times, Kansas City Star, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

If this video quits working, view it on YouTube.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beginning ~ with an elephant graveyard

This book seems to be narrated by two characters, Jenna and Alice, so I've decided to share each of their opening lines.
Some people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard — a place that sick and old elephants would travel to to die.
When I was nine — before I grew up and became a scientist — I thought I knew everything, or at least I wanted to know everything, and in my mind there was no difference between the two.
Leaving Time ~ by Jodi Picoult, 2014, fiction
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident.  Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals.  A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.  Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest.  The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons — only to later doubt her gifts.  The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues.  As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.  As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish.
When I put this book on reserve, weeks before it was published, I was something like 400th in line.  As I checked it out today, there are still 424 people waiting for one of the 273 copies in the St. Louis County Library system.  This novel debuted as the #1 New York Times bestseller on October 14th.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Library Loot ~ November 5-11

Fragmented by Design: Why St. Louis Has So Many Governments ~ by E. Terrence Jones, 2000, history
St. Louis is a rarity in that it's metropolitan area is split not only into the usual political parties, but into a large number of political entities as well.   Citizens here distrust government, but seem to love governments.   The book begins with the split between the City and County of St. Louis in 1876 and goes on to how St. Louis went from one dominant government, the City of St. Louis, to more than 300 in the region today.   It also touches on the ramifications of having that many individual municipalities, some tiny and some huge.   This book explores the suburban explosion, the rise of regional districts, and the outlook for the future.  We have rejected being like someone else and, instead, decided to be distinctively St. Louis:  fragmented by design.
The title page has been signed by "Terry Jones," though I first thought there was no title page in the book.  The first couple of pages are "praise quotations" for the book, which isn't unusual.  But putting the copyright date on the back of the second page is rather strange.  Opposite it is the Table of Contents and then, after turning another page, you'll finally find the title page.  Turn another page, and there's the Dedication to his wife.  Turn another page, and there's a Preface.  Turn another page, and there a 3-page Foreword.  None of these pages is numbered, and only the copyright page and the Foreword include writing on the left-hand page.  Now we get to Chapter 1, where actual page numbers begin on the second page.  What an odd arrangement!  And I haven't even started reading the book yet.  In this video, Terry Jones talks about how St. Louis became so fragmented.

If the video quits working, view it on YouTube.

This 1875 map is from an article published February 22, 2014:  Summary of City-County Reorganization Attempts According to Fragmented by Design by E. Terrence Jones by Richard Bose.

In case you wonder why I'm reading such a book, it's because I moved to St. Louis in June.  Yesterday, I voted here for the second time, and I'm trying to understand this place.  By the way, I live in University City, where the population was 35,148 in 2013.  That's in St. Louis County due west of the City of St. Louis.  The combined metropolitan area has a population of 2,900,605.  Plus me.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hey, sleepyhead!

If you arrive late to church tomorrow morning, it may be because you hear a different clock.  One you forgot to re-set.

Update at 11:21 pm (St. Louis time):  Oops!  I got it backwards!  Thanks, Joylynn (on Facebook), I'm correcting this.  Sleepyhead will actually get an extra hour to sleep.  Or maybe to arrive at church an hour early for a change.  Maybe I'm confused because I'm already an hour behind Eastern time, which is the time my blogs post.