Great Reads Book Club – September’s Book

omw0510Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was a step outside of what the Great Reads Book Club usually reads. Most people in our discussion group thought the book was “clever, engaging and filled with interesting concepts.” The book explores what happens when a 75-year old man decides to transfer his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the Colonial Defense Force in a war effort against alien species. And, of course, what happens is not pretty.

Why would our protagonist John Perry decide to join a war that is almost certainly going to kill him? Well, the love of his life Kathy passes away and, with an aged body, there is just not much left for John to live for on Earth anymore. After visiting his deceased wife’s grave, John’s leaves the planet and his adventure begins. Old Man’s War is packed with action, cool scientific concepts and different alien species.

There was one important problem with Old Man’s War. The majority of characters in the book are old people, and yet all of them, without exception, talk and act like teenagers. In short – this is a missed opportunity. Old people are interesting because they have years and years of experience, wisdom, memories and knowledge under their belt. Unfortunately, these characteristics are only mentioned passingly and don’t play a meaningful part in the story. Additionally, the story’s premise was so promising: “75 year old man transfers his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the army.” Ideas on ethics and philosophy could have been explored in greater detail here. Instead, we have a military space shooter that’s primarily interested in entertaining the reader, not making her think.

When it’s all said and done, Old Man’s War is a decent book. It’s entertaining and, at times, very funny. If you enjoy fast-paced narrative and cool action scenes – read this book immediately. However, if you like reading science fiction and think about ethical themes and philosophy, I would not recommend reading this book. Check out The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu instead.

by Ilya Kabirov

Sue Monk Kidd Inspires Literary Vacation

s The Invention of Wings sparked a multi-generational adventure to Charleston, South Carolina.

After reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd I became obsessed with learning as much as I could about the sisters Grimke.  Although the book was historical fiction, Sarah and Angelina Grimke are more than just characters in a book, they were true abolitionists and suffragettes, and not surprising were daughters of true American patriots.  Their father was once jailed in Charleston by the British and the girls eventually had to leave Charleston in fear for their lives, never to return for the sake of their family.   After finishing my research I felt the need to visit Charleston and see some of the places that were so vividly described in the book.  Having also read the books, I invited two of my Aunts and one of my Daughters to go along with me on this pilgrimage.  Before our trip I contacted Carol Ezell-Gilson, part of the Charleston Preservation Society, who, along with a partner, leads the Original Grimke Sisters Tours.  We were not disappointed. Carol led us through Charleston, bringing us to the home that Sarah lived as a young girl, the home they moved to before Angelina was born, by the (most likely) home of Denmark Vecey, a free black carpenter and minister who led the opposition of Slavery in Charleston in 1822 and many other relevant landmarks.  She helped us discern the differences of fact and fiction in the book and helped us understand the city during the early 1800’s in such a special way. a

The book, written in two voices, the first being Sarah Grimke and the second being Hattie (Handful), her slave, gives life and breath to what it might feel like to live in the South during a turbulent time when people were so divided about right and wrong.  Having three generations of women following a path forged by the strength of two sisters was a powerful experience, building a bond I will cherish forever.

 

By Kathy Bennett
Children’s Services Associate

Great Reads Book Club – June’s Book

 

21853621In a video book trailer for The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah called it her personal favorite out of the books she had written. A veteran of romance genre, Hannah captivated her old readers and gained many new fans in the historical fiction genre after The Nightingale’s publication. The novel won many prestigious awards, such as the Goodreads Choice Award in 2015 and Library Journal’s Best Historical Fiction Award, but even more importantly, Kristin Hannah’s take on the Nazi-occupied France enthralled everyone in the Great Reads Book Club.

Hannah mentioned in one of her interviews that the idea for The Nightingale came to her several years ago while she was in a process of doing research for her other book, Winter Garden, which was set in Russia during World War II. While reading women’s war stories and diaries, Hannah came across the true story of a 19-year-old Belgian woman who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. Her name was Andrée De Jongh and her story inspired The Nightingale.

When the Wehrmacht troops entered and occupied France in 1940, they broke the spirit of the French people with scare tactics, malnourishment, and at times, outright savagery. Albeit their cruel actions weakened the French population both physically and mentally, many fought back by joining together in what became known as the French Resistance. Our protagonists, sisters Isabelle and Vianne, fought back against the Nazi occupation in their own ways. The courage and sacrifice these sisters displayed in the novel honors the real French men and women, who experienced tremendous suffering during that time period.

My favorite aspect of The Nightingale was the gradual transformation of Isabelle and Vianne. In the beginning of the novel, we find out that they were driven apart by unhealed childhood wounds and divergent personalities. Isabelle is rebellious and not afraid to express her true feelings, even in the face of certain harm and danger. Vianne’s main source of anxiety is the safety of her daughter in the face of German occupation and, therefore, she tries to follow the rules. The Great War transforms the sisters and, while driving them apart initially, ultimately brings them closer together. If you enjoy courageous, dynamic, three-dimensional characters and seeing what actions they would take when facing tremendous ordeals, The Nightingale is the book for you. Hannah writes in a compelling and emotionally-moving way and it’s truly hard to put this one down.

Ilya Kabirov

Great Reads Book Club – May’s Book

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The term “Easy Read” is subjective to the individual reader. What one reader might define as an “easy read”, another might mark as a “hard read”. It was agreed by everyone in the Great Reads Book Club that What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman was not an easy read. Despite the fact that Wiseman possesses an undisputed talent for narrating a good story, the topic under examination is not an easy one.

Wiseman wanted to tell a story of what happens to different people admitted to mental institutions. She accomplished this through two storylines. The first is of Izzy Stone, who grew up without a mother because she was in prison for shooting Izzy’s father ten years prior. Traveling from one foster home to another, Izzy was forced to become self-reliant from her early years. Now, Izzy is seventeen and her new foster parents have asked for Izzy’s help in cataloguing abandoned belongings in a local, deserted mental asylum. While working, Izzy discovers Clara Cartwright’s personal journal, which gives Izzy a new purpose in life.

The second plot line tells us a story of Clara Cartwright’s appalling experiences in a mental asylum. Clara was 18 in 1929, when her conservative father arranged a marriage for Clara with a man she did not love. Clara rejects the proposal and her furious parent sends her to a public asylum, in order to convince Clara to change her mind. Clara’s experiences in the asylum are truly awful and some readers might find those parts hard to read. One of the biggest points that sparked up an excellent conversation in the book club was doctor’s authority over patient’s body. Is it ok for a doctor to make any sort of changes to his patient’s body just because he is considered to be a professional or can a patient reject doctor’s orders?

What She Left Behind can be considered a historical novel, for a large portion of the story is unveiled in the past through the eyes of Clara Cartwright. However, the novel can appeal to readers of fiction set in present times. There is a plethora of topics in the book, relevant to today’s world and its problems, like abusive relationships, motherly interference in child’s growth, bullying, women’s rights, professional authority, and birth control. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys leisurely-paced, character-driven, thought-provoking literary fiction and schemes of parallel narratives.

Ilya Kabirov

Book Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

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I recently had the pleasure (and fright) of reading, Suffer the Children, by Craig DiLouie. This was my first time reading one of his books, though my husband is a fan. I am a fan after this! The premise of the book is that all of the world’s children suddenly die. Society comes to a halt as parents bury their children, many in mass graves, once normal and happy families fall into despair…  And then the children “wake up”, but don’t expect zombies. What follows is an innovative and fresh take on an often tired genre. The real horror besides the children (they are scary!) is what lengths people will go to ensure the lives of their children and how the real monsters are within ourselves. How far would you go? The book has strong everyday characters  who fall apart before our eyes and made for an engrossing and sometimes brutal, read.

The Fountaindale Public Library has copies of the book available for check out. If you like horror that makes you think and sticks in your head long after you finish reading it, get this book. Highly recommended!!!!

 

–Chrisitine

Some Historical Fiction Favorites

I have always been a big reader of historical fiction. Recently I read some outstanding books that I just couldn’t put down. Enjoy!

19th wifeThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This book follows two story lines. The first, set in the present, follows a woman living in a polygamist cult, who is accused of shooting her husband. She is the first 19th wife we meet. Her son who was kicked out of the cult, is called back to try to help her prove her innocence. The second story is set in the 1800s as we follow the writings of Eliza Ann Young, the 19th (possibly) wife of Brigham Young and her family as they struggle with the early days for the LDS church and most specific, polygamy. I couldn’t put this book down! Both stories were intriguing and I learned so much about the early Mormon church, controversies and all. And of course, we all know the stories concerning the FLDS and Warren Jeffs.

trueTrue Sisters by Sandra Dallas

After reading The 19th Wife, I wanted to continue along with learning more about the early Mormon church, but with a less controversial spin. True Sisters follows a group of recent converts from England and Scotland who are part of the hand cart pioneers who walk across the US to the promised land of Utah, pulling all their possessions by hand in hand carts. I remember reading about this several times and seeing depictions of it when I visited SLC when I was younger. Each family struggles with hunger, weather and each other. As they try to survive the brutal conditions, some come out of it with their faith intact, others do not. I never realized just what a perilous journey they embarked on, until I read this.

dressmakerThe Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Everyone knows the story of the Titanic thanks to the movie, this book explores not just the sinking but the trials that followed afterwards as everyone was blaming each other for the tragedy. We follow Tess, an aspiring seamstress, who thinks she has landed the job of a lifetime being a lady’s maid to Lady Duff-Gorden, a famous (and real life!) dressmaker, as they embark to the US aboard the Titanic. The story of the sinking being a type of “end of an era” symbol is carried into Lady Duff-Gordon’s dress creations, once the rage, now seeming outdated and Tess the new kid with the new, fresh ideas. The confusion and terror of the sinking and also the trials, with their real life characters and drama, were also fascinating.

-Christine

More Stories From The Zombie Apocalypse.

One of my favorite book series is As The World Dies, by Rhiannon Frater. The series consists of 3 books which follows two women, Jenni and Katie, in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. As society strives to survive and rebuild, we get to know many characters who cross paths with them. Ms. Frater, in addition to the three books, also has written 3 collections of short stories about the minor characters and how they made it through the ordeal.

The stories are varied. My favorite is about Ken and Lenore, two people just starting out an average day at the hair salon they work at. It soon turns out to be not such an average day. some people turn into heroes, they make you cheer them on, worry for them and sometimes want to cry. There are also some people for whom the zombie apocalypse brings out the worst in them. There is one rather disturbing story about a family of four, a vengeful wife and mother…. well it doesn’t turn out to well. One of my favorite characters is Rune, a biker turned hero who can see ghosts.  Ghosts play a big part of the original series last book, so this was a nice way to explain just how this all happens.

I don’t want to give too much more away, but if you enjoyed Ms. Frater’s As the World Dies trilogy, you owe it to yourself to read these stories. Some are rather short, Others a bit more involved, but you will be holding your breath through all of them. These books are hard to find, the Fountaindale Library owns the first two volumes. I was able to buy them for my e-reader at a very modest cost. They are worth it.

-Christine