Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Women's History Month

Wow, what a meeting last night to discuss Women’s History Month!  It was one of the most diverse groups of books I can remember in GRG, ranging across subjects and time periods!  What could have been such a narrow focus was instead a vast swath of history and culture.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

(amazon.com) On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.  Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.

This novel is a fictionalized account of the real-life story of these two early pioneers of paleontology.


(amazon.com) Lilly Ledbetter always knew that she was destined for something more than what she was born into--a house with no running water or electricity in the small town of Possum Trot, Alabama. In 1979, when Lilly applied for her dream job at the Goodyear tire factory, she got the job--one of the first women hired at the management level. Nineteen years after her first day at Goodyear, Lilly received an anonymous note revealing that she was making thousands less per year than the men in her position.

When she filed a sex-discrimination case against Goodyear, Lilly won--and then heart-breakingly lost on appeal. Over the next eight years, her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost again. But Lilly continued to fight, and became the namesake of Barack Obama's first official piece of legislation as president. A winning memoir and a powerful call to arms, Grace and Grit is the story of a true American icon.


(amazon.com) Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer inventedspread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.

Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we've come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio's genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Eighteen year old Hedy Lamarr’s controversial role in the 1933European film, Ecstasy, acted as a sort of catapult to her early career.  The nature of the role caused strife with her domineering husband and she fled the marriage not long after, meeting up serendipitously with Louis B. Mayer, of MGM fame, while in Paris.


(Publisher’s Weekly) An older sister of poet, playwright and diplomat Paul Claudel, beautiful, talented Camille Claudel (1864-1943), at the age of 20, became mistress, model and collaborator of Auguste Rodin, who admired her sculpture and was influenced by it. When she broke with Rodin, who refused to marry her, she continued to sculpt, paint and exhibit. But in time, living in poverty and semi-obscurity, she destroyed some of her work, her friendships and family ties, and became "nothing more than an anxious shadow hiding in the recesses of her dark studio, asking only for silence and oblivion." In 1913, Paul Claudel had his reclusive, paranoid, now unattractive sister incarcerated, and she remained in sanatoriums for the rest of her life. Interweaving family letters, this brief biography by her grandniece is timed to appear with the opening of an exhibition of her work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Photos not seen by PW. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: A wonderful film was based on the passionate affair of Claudel and Rodin, simply called Camille Claudel, and starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu.


(amazon.com) Though of eminent birth and status in their own right, the women of Crowned in a Far Country all left the countries of their birth to marry heirs to great thrones. They all shared an inbred sense of duty and a genuine desire to see it performed. None fought against what she saw as her destiny but only sought to fulfill it. Some were passionate, others less so. Some were good wives; some were caring mothers. They were all catalysts, the pivots of their worlds for a time.

More than just a window into the politics and power brokering of royal marriage, Crowned in a Far Country charts the transformations of privileged princesses into women of power and historical importance.


(amazon.com) “For a Second Wave feminist like myself, Girls to the Front evokes wonderfully the way the generation after mine soaked up the promise and the punishment of feminist consciousness....A richly moving story.” —Village Voice writer Vivian Gornick

Girls to the Front is the epic, definitive history of the Riot Grrrl movement—the radical feminist punk uprising that exploded into the public eye in the 1990s, altering America’s gender landscape forever. Author Sara Marcus, a music and politics writer for Time Out New York, Slate.com, Pos, and Heeb magazine, interweaves research, interviews, and her own memories as a Riot Grrrl front-liner. Her passionate, sophisticated narrative brilliantly conveys the story of punk bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy—as well as successors like Sleater-Kinney, Partyline, and Kathleen Hanna’s Le Tigre—and their effect on today’s culture.


(amazon.com) As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.

Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was proclaimed JFK's favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived on base with a secret. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, meeting regularly to provide support and friendship. Many became next-door neighbors and helped to raise each other's children by day, while going to glam parties at night as the country raced to land a man on the Moon.

As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives-they continued to rally together, and the wives have now been friends for more than fifty years. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The ABC tv network has optioned The Astronaut Wives Club for a scripted drama series.  So far, they have ordered 10 episodes.


(amazon.com) When Valentina Tereshkova blasted off aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, she became the first woman to rocket into space. It would be 19 years before another woman got a chance—cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982—followed by American astronaut Sally Ride a year later. By breaking the stratospheric ceiling, these women forged a path for many female astronauts, cosmonauts, and mission specialists to follow.

Women in Space profiles 23 pioneers, including Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the space shuttle; Peggy Whitson, who logged more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; as well as astronauts from Japan, Canada, Italy, South Korea, France, and more. Readers will also learn about the Mercury 13, American women selected by NASA in the late 1950s to train for spaceflight. Though they matched and sometimes surpassed their male counterparts in performance, they were ultimately denied the opportunity to head out to the launching pad. Their story, and the stories of the pilots, physicists, and doctors who followed them, demonstrate the vital role women have played in the quest for scientific understanding.

The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran
(amazon.com)  When Deng Xiaoping's efforts to "open up" China took root in the late 1980s, Xinran recognized an invaluable opportunity.  As an employee for the state radio system, she had long wanted to help improve the lives of Chinese women.  But when she was given clearance to host a radio call-in show, she barely anticipated the enthusiasm it would quickly generate.

Operating within the constraints imposed by government censors, "Words on the Night Breeze" sparked a tremendous outpouring, and the hours of tape on her answering machines were soon filled every night.  Whether angry or muted, posing questions or simply relating experiences, these anonymous women bore witness to decades of civil strife, and of halting attempts at self-understanding in a painfully restrictive society.  In this collection, by turns heartrending and inspiring, Xinran brings us the stories that affected her most, and offers a graphically detailed, altogether unprecedented work of oral history.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

famous couples

The Genre Reading Group will meet again on Tuesday, March 25th at 6:30pm to discuss books about women and women's history in recognition of Women's History Month.  Read a book, watch a movie, listen to an audiobook, (your choice!) then come tell us about it.

Last night, we met to talk about famous couples, real and imagined.

Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett
(amazon.com) Veronica Bennett's lush reimagining of the life of Mary Shelley — on the eve of her authorship of the classic gothic novel Frankenstein — is a gripping story of love and obsession.  In the spring of 1814, poet Percy Shelley enters the life of young Mary Godwin like an angel of deliverance. Seduced by his radical and romantic ideas, she flees with him and her stepsister to Europe, where they forge a hardscrabble life while mingling with other free-spirited artists and poets. Frowned on by family and society, persecuted by gossip, and plagued by jealousy, Mary becomes haunted by freakish imaginings and hideous visions. As tragedy strikes, not once but time and again, Mary begins to realize that her dreams have become nightmares, and her angel . . . a monster. Now the time has finally come for the young woman who would become Mary Shelley to set her monster free.

Both of Us: My Life with Farrah by Ryan O'Neal
(amazon.com) Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett: One of the most storied love affairs in Hollywood history, their romance has captivated fans and media alike for more than three decades. Fans of each other from afar, Ryan and Farrah met through her husband, Lee Majors, and fell passionately in love. Soon, however, reality threatened their happiness and they struggled with some serious matters, including the disintegration of Farrah’s marriage; Ryan’s troubled relationship with his daughter, Tatum, and son, Griffin; mismatched career trajectories; and raising their young son, Redmond—all leading Ryan and Farrah to an inevitable split in 1997.

Ryan fought to create a life on his own but never stopped longing for Farrah. Older and wiser, he and Farrah found their way back to each other and were excited to start a new life together. But their bliss was cut short when Farrah was diagnosed with cancer and passed away just three years later. Ryan’s deep love for Farrah and his devotion to preserving her memory are evident in Both of Us.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Many just remember Farrah Fawcett from her stint on Charlie's Angels, but she was a wonderful actress in her own right, starring in such gripping films as ExtremitiesThe Burning Bed, and Logan's Run.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
(amazon.com) In 1959, a young woman, Haruko, marries the Crown Prince of Japan. She is the first nonaristocratic woman to enter the mysterious, hermetic monarchy. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress, Haruko is controlled at every turn, suffering a nervous breakdown after finally giving birth to a son. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with tragic consequences. Based on extensive research, The Commoner is a stunning novel about a brutally rarified and controlled existence, and the complex relationship between two isolated women who are truly understood only by each other.

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Ben Hills
(amazon.com) The tragic true story of Japan's Crown Princess.  It's the fantasy of many young women: marry a handsome prince, move into a luxurious palace, and live happily ever after. But that's not how it turned out for Masako Owada. Ben Hills's fascinating portrait of Princess Masako and the Chrysanthemum Throne draws on research in Tokyo and rural Japan, at Oxford and Harvard, and from more than sixty interviews with Japanese, American, British, and Australian sources-many of whom have never spoken publicly before-shedding light on the royal family's darkest secrets, secrets that can never be openly discussed in Japan because of the reverence in which the emperor and his family are held. But most of all, this is a story about a love affair that went tragically wrong.  The paperback edition will contain a new afterword by the author, discussing the impact this book had in Japan, where it was banned.

Happy Trails: Our Life Story by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Jane and Michael Stern
(bn.com) The warmhearted, intimate story of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. From Roy's success with the Sons of the Pioneers to the couple's meeting, marriage, and rise to superstardom, Happy Trails decribes Roy's and Dale's professional trials and triumphs, and tells movingly of their personal tragedies, including the deaths of three of their children.

Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents Roy Rogers and Dale Evans by Cheryl Rogers-Barnett
(outwestmktg.com) He was the King of the Cowboys. She was the Queen of the West. They were the idols of boys and girls everywhere who thrilled to their exploits in the movies or on TV and grew up humming their theme song, "Happy Trails." They were the author's idols as well. But they were also her parents.



Cheryl Rogers-Barnett practically grew up on the Republic Studios lot where her parents made their great movies. She remembers, as a little girl, rehearsals with the original Sons of the Pioneers. She was aware of Roy and Dale as celebrities-but also saw them as loving parents to a large and very diverse family. She shared their joy when they received honors and fame, and wept with them through the tragic loss of three siblings. Through it all, her parents remained in private what all of their fans wanted them to be - honest, straightforward, loving people who lived lives of generosity, adventure, and humor-especially humor.

Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans tells the story of Cheryl's beloved parents from a point of view that is uniquely hers. It's filled with hilarious and touching stories of their relationship with each other and with their children and includes countless behind-the-scenes stories of Roy and Dale's movies, television appearances, and music. Leavening the warm and illuminating stories and memories are dozens of rare photographs-family snapshots, studio portraits, behind-the-scenes stills-most of which have never been published in a book and many of which have never been published anywhere.

For fans of the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West-and for anyone interested in the great performers of yesteryear-this book provides an up close and personal introduction to Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, their family, and the many colorful characters who rode beside them on those happy, happy trails.

The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Meyers
(amazon.com) The 1956 wedding of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller surprised the world. The Genius and the Goddess presents an intimate portrait of the prelude to and ultimate tragedy of their short marriage. Distinguished biographer Jeffrey Meyers skillfully explores why they married, what sustained them for five years, and what ultimately destroyed their marriage and her life.

The greatest American playwright of the twentieth century and the most popular American actress both complemented and wounded one another. Marilyn craved attention and success but became dependent on drugs, alcohol, and sexual adventures. Miller experienced creative agony with her.  Their marriage coincided with the creative peak of her career, yet private and public conflict caused both of them great anguish.

Meyers has crafted a richly nuanced dual biography based on his quarter-century friendship with Miller, interviews with major players of stage and screen during the postwar Hollywood era, and extensive archival research. He describes their secret courtship. He also reveals new information about the effect of the HUAC anti-Communist witch-hunts on Miller and his friendship with Elia Kazan. The fascinating cast of characters includes Marilyn's co-stars Sir Laurence Olivier, Yves Montand, Montgomery Clift, and Clark Gable; her leading directors John Huston, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor; and her literary friends Dame Edith Sitwell, Isak Dinesen, Saul Bellow, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Meyers offers the most in-depth account of the making and meaning of The Misfits. Written by Miller for Monroe, this now-classic film was a personal disaster. But Marilyn remained Miller's tragic muse and her character, exalted and tormented, lived on for the next forty years in his work.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: As our topic this month was in recognition of Valentine's Day, we did have a short discussion on love and the nature of love.  Topically, we talked about it in relation to technology, but we certainly weren't the first.  Two wonderful (awful?) 80's films that explore the issue are:

Electric Dreams (1984)
(amazon.com) Lonely architect Miles (Von Dohlen) purchases a fancy new "Pine cone" personal computer and clumsily spills champagne on it which, of course, imbues the computer with human (or more than human) intelligence, prodigious musical talent and the voice of Bud Court. The computer (now called Edgar) proceeds to fall in love with Miles' upstairs neighbour, beautiful cellist Madeline (Madsen) with whom it engages in anonymous musical duets thanks to the talents of iconic 80's film composer Giorgio Moroder. Madeline of course assumes the music comes from the obviously shy Miles and a romance ensues. A romance which stokes the fires of jealousy on the part of Edgar. By way of revenge, Edgar cancels Miles' credit cards and wreaks various other havoc on his on-line accessible identity. Meanwhile Madeline cannot understand why Miles won't play music with her when he obviously has such talent. Nonetheless, human love prevails and Edgar nobly commits suicide when he realises that he will never, can never, win the heart of his human love.The film contains several neo-classical musical numbers, various examples of state-of-the-art 80's computer graphics and 80's sexology icon Dr. Ruth in a cameo.


Cherry 2000 (1987)
(amazon.com) Cherry 2000 is the heartwarming tale of Sam Treadwell (David Andrews), who will stop at nothing to find another model of his broken companion android, Cherry. Griffith plays E. Johnson, the tough-as-nails tracker who helps him track her down. As deliriously chowderheaded as the premise of the movie sounds, it's actually not half bad and immensely fun to watch. The surprisingly mature plot (nobody gets naked!) involves Treadwell's gradual discovery that there's more to a good woman than a beautiful body and perfect subservience. Don't worry, there are plenty of explosions to keep you from getting bored. Griffith absolutely owns the movie--she looks like a complete badass handling surface-to-air missiles, though of course she still sounds like she picked up diction tips from early Shirley Temple movies.


A recent film that explores this idea for smartphone users is Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.
(fandango.com) Joaquin Phoenix stars in Spike Jonze's soulful sci-fi drama about a lonely writer who falls in love with his computer's highly advanced operating system. Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) has built his career on expressing the emotions that others cannot. His job is to pen heartfelt, deeply personal letters to complete strangers based on details provided by the clients of the company he works for, and he has a knack for finding just the right words for every occasion. Meanwhile, reluctant to sign the papers that will finalize his divorce to his childhood sweetheart, depressed Theodore has slowly withdrawn from his supportive social circle, which includes his longtime friend Amy (Amy Adams), herself floundering in a failed marriage. When Theodore purchases a new state-of-the-art computer operating system with the ability to learn and grow with the user, he sits down at his desk and prepares to get his life in order. Adopting the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the perceptive software slowly begins to bring Theodore out of his shell by encouraging him to start dating again, and joining him everywhere he goes. Very quickly, their relationship turns intimate, with Theodore teaching Samantha what it means to feel human and Samantha giving him the strength to walk away from his failed marriage. Things soon get complicated, however, when Samantha's rapidly evolving knowledge base begins to alter the very core of their relationship.



This same premise showed up in an episode of The Big Bang Theory too.  Raj, unable to speak to women face to face, is delighted because he has no trouble talking to Siri, the voice of his new iPhone.





 Who is YOUR favorite couple, real or imagined?

Monday, February 10, 2014

the Civil Rights movement in America

While January's Snowpocalypse canceled our Genre Reading Group meeting last month, the readers are still eager to share the great material they read, watched, and listened to for the meeting so we had an impromptu email meeting.  Here's a list, with reader descriptions included where I received them!

Alabama Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom by Frye Gaillard (2010)

(Reader's description) The book tells you about areas throughout the state that have something historic about the civil right.  There are pictures and details on how to get to the sites.  For example: Lowndes County has a Blank Panther symbol for their freedom organization.  Bobby Seale saw it and used it for his Blank Panther group.

(amazon.com) No other state has embraced and preserved its civil rights history more thoroughly than Alabama. Nor is there a place where that history is richer. Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail tells of Alabama’s great civil rights events, as well as its lesser-known moments, in a compact and accessible narrative, paired with a practical guide to Alabama’s preserved civil rights sites and monuments.

In his history of Alabama’s civil rights movement, Cradle of Freedom (University of Alabama Press, 2004), Frye Gaillard contends that Alabama played the lead role in a historic movement that made all citizens of the nation, black and white, more free. This book, geared toward the casual traveler and the serious student alike, showcases in a vividly illustrated and compelling manner, valuable and rich details. It provides a user-friendly, graphic tool for the growing number of travelers, students, and civil rights pilgrims who visit the state annually.

The story of the civil rights movement in Alabama is told city by city, region by region, and town by town, with entries on Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee, and Mobile, as well as chapters on the Black Belt and the Alabama hill country. Smaller but important locales such as Greensboro, Monroeville, and Scottsboro are included, as are more obscure sites like Hale County’s Safe House Black History Museum and the birthplace of the Black Panther Party in Lowndes County.

Birmingham Sunday - Larry Dane Brimner (2010)

(Reader description) Story of Birmingham at the time of the bombing.  Lots of pictures.

(amazon.com) Racial bombings were so frequent in Birmingham that it became known as "Bombingham." Until September 15, 1963, these attacks had been threatening but not deadly. On that Sunday morning, however, a blast in the 16th Street Baptist Church ripped through the exterior wall and claimed the lives of four girls. The church was the ideal target for segregationists, as it was the rallying place for Birmingham's African American community, Martin Luther King, Jr., using it as his "headquarters" when he was in town to further the cause of desegregation and equal rights. Rather than triggering paralyzing fear, the bombing was the definitive act that guaranteed passage of the landmark 1964 civil rights legislation. Birmingham Sunday, a Jane Addams Children's Honor Book, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, and Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year, centers on this fateful day and places it in historical context.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

(Reader description) It was a fun book about a family in Detroit with lots of humor.  They go back home to the mother's house to leave their eldest with the grandmother in Birmingham.  The bombing happens while they are there.  The bombing was covered with a few mentions, but it mainly was a story of a close-knit family.

(amazon.com)  A wonderful middle-grade (3rd-6th grade) novel narrated by Kenny, 9, about his middle-class black family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny's 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, they head South to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandma's church is blown up.

Safe from the Neighbors by Steve Yarbrough (adult fiction)

(amazon.com) In a small town in the Mississippi Delta, Luke May teaches local history to students too young to remember the turmoil of the civil rights era. Luke himself was just a child in 1962 when James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss provoked a bloody new battle in the old Civil War. But when a long-lost friend suddenly returns to town, bringing with her a reminder of the act of searing violence that ended her childhood, Luke begins to realize that his connection to the past runs deeper than he ever could have imagined. An intricate novel of family secrets, extramarital affairs, and political upheaval, Safe from the Neighbors is a magnificent achievement.

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (juvenile fiction)

(amazon.com)  In Kuckachoo, Mississippi, 1963, Addie Ann Pickett worships her brother Elias and follows in his footsteps by attending the black junior high school. But when her careless act leads to her brother’s disappearance and possible murder, Addie Ann, Mama, and Uncle Bump struggle with not knowing if he’s dead or alive. Then a good deed meant to unite Kuckachoo sets off a chain of explosive events. Addie Ann knows Old Man Adams left his land to the white and black people to plant a garden and reap its bounty together, but the mayor denies it. On garden picking day, Addie Ann’s family is sorely tested. Through tragedy, she finds the voice to lead a civil rights march all her own, and maybe change the future for her people.

Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford (juvenile nonfiction)

(amazon.com)  A poetic tribute to the victims of the racially motivated church bombing that served as a seminal event in the struggle for civil rights. In 1963, the eyes of the world were on Birmingham, Alabama, a flashpoint for the civil rights movement. Birmingham was one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Civil rights demonstrators were met with police dogs and water cannons. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted sticks of dynamite at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which served as a meeting place for civil rights organizers. The explosion killed four little girls. Their murders shocked the nation and turned the tide in the struggle for equality. A Jane Addams Children's Honor Book, here is a book that captures the heartbreak of that day, as seen through the eyes of a fictional witness. Archival photographs with poignant text written in free verse offer a powerful tribute to the young victims.

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund

(Reader description)  Anyone born and raised in Birmingham like I was will love this book. There is so much Birmingham history. There were times when I was reading that I just had to stop and think about what I was doing at that time. I was just a child but can still remember going downtown with my Mom and sitting at one of the big department store counters to have lunch. Being so young, I was totally oblivious to the fact that only whites were allowed or that there were separate bathrooms. I also have a very close friend whose father is a retired Birmingham police officer. I have listened to him tell stories about his time on the force, and after reading this book, it made me see him in a little different light, and I am sorry to say that it wasn't a very good light. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it truly felt like to live in the city of Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement.

(amazon.com)  Weaving together the lives of blacks and whites, racists and civil rights advocates, and the events of peaceful protest and violent repression, Sena Jeter Naslund creates a tapestry of American social transformation at once intimate and epic.

In Birmingham, Alabama, twenty-year-old Stella Silver, an idealistic white college student, is sent reeling off her measured path by events of 1963. Combining political activism with single parenting and night-school teaching, African American Christine Taylor discovers she must heal her own bruised heart to actualize meaningful social change. Inspired by the courage and commitment of the civil rights movement, the child Edmund Powers embodies hope for future change. In this novel of maturation and growth, Naslund makes vital the intersection of spiritual, political, and moral forces that have redefined America.

Martin Luther King speech, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b80Bsw0UG-U



(Watcher description)  I saw this video, edited, on The Young Turks website a couple of weeks ago.)  YouTube Video, Excerpts of a Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

Entire speech: http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/mlk-sermon-why-i-am-opposed-war-vietnam

Goin's Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack (children's picture book)

(amazon.com) There's a place in this 1950s southern town where all are welcome, no matter what their skin color...and 'Tricia Ann knows exactly how to get there. To her, it's someplace special and she's bursting to go by herself.

When her grandmother sees that she's ready to take such a big step, 'Tricia Ann hurries to catch the bus heading downtown. But unlike the white passengers, she must sit in the back behind the Jim Crow sign and wonder why life's so unfair.

Still, for each hurtful sign seen and painful comment heard, there's a friend around the corner reminding 'Tricia Ann that she's not alone. And even her grandmother's words -- "You are somebody, a human being -- no better, no worse than anybody else in this world" -- echo in her head, lifting her spirits and pushing her forward.

Patricia C. McKissack's poignant story of growing up in the segregated South and Jerry Pinkney's rich, detailed watercolors lead readers to the doorway of freedom.

The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos, illustrated by Nate Powell

(Reader description)  The title comes from the MLK, Jr. quote, "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."  For me, this graphic novel could easily stand along with To Kill a Mockingbird as an exploration and exposition of its time period.  The art work is spare, adding much to the impact of the story.

(amazon.com)  As the civil rights struggle heats up in Texas, two families—one white, one black—find common ground.  This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.

The Silence of Our Friends follows events through the point of view of young Mark Long, whose father is a reporter covering the story. Semi-fictionalized, this story has its roots solidly in very real events. With art from the brilliant Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) bringing the tale to heart-wrenching life, The Silence of Our Friends is a new and important entry in the body of civil rights literature.

The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham DeVoto

(amazon.com) Wallace is poised to win the Alabama gubernatorial race. The KKK is going strong. And integration seems like an impossible dream. This same summer, Tab and Tina, Maudie, and Charles's lives will be saved and the South will be transformed. Growing up down the road from the founding place of the KKK, Tab and Tina have always been sheltered. But when their progressive aunt, Eugenia, comes for her yearly visit, Tab and Tina's lives will never be the same. Taken from their conservative town in Alabama to the Highlander Folk School, a place where blacks and whites live together while working for integration, Tab and Tina will see just how similar people really are. A graduate of the Highlander school, Maudie has always known that she wanted to be involved in voter registration and literacy training. When she takes a job in a congregation determined to stonewall her, she has her work cut out for her. But she's determined to change their minds, especially Jessie who isn't her student by choice but who ends up teaching her more than she could ever have dreamed. Charles, Tab and Tina's father, has often supported the safe candidate. With a family to support and property to manage, he has a lot at stake. But when a childhood friend comes to him with passionate support for a dark horse candidate, Charles is intrigued. Can one man really change the world?

Our Year of Themes will continue on Tuesday, February 25th at 6:30pm with a discussion of famous couples, real or imagined!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pop Culture and Celebrity

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday, January 28th at 6:30pm and we'll be starting our Year of the Theme!  January's meeting will celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement in America.  Books, audiobooks, movies, documentaries, graphic novels, fiction, nonfiction...YOU pick what to read/watch/listen to, then come tell us about it on January 28th!

Last night we met to talk about pop culture and fame and the discussion ranged from Downton Abbey to the paparazzi to variety shows and stars of the past.

The Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with the Stars Reveals About Us by Cooper Lawrence
America’s fast-growing religion is—let’s face it—celebrity worship. From gossip magazines to entertainment TV, from blogs to ads featuring famous faces, the stars are our new gods and goddesses. But why are we so quick to put them on pedestals? Why are we even more spellbound when they topple back down to earth?

The Cult of Celebrity is the first book to explore this phenomenon comprehensively and yet in eminently readable terms. In a compulsive read, Cooper Lawrence maps out the psychology behind the behavior of the stars—and that of the millions out there who follow their every move. She points both to the benefits and dangers not only to society but also to us personally; to our spending habits, health, social awareness, attitude toward personal failure and toward relationships, and above all, our self-image. And she offers practical tips on keeping our interest under control. Drawing on the latest research as well as interviews with fans and entertainment industry insiders, as well as celebrities themselves, The Cult of Celebrity is as accessible and sassy as it is thought-provoking. (amazon.com)

The Line That Learned a Lesson by Beverly B. Erdreich  (not in the PLJC system)
“The Line That Learned a Lesson” tells a moral while delightfully engaging young readers to look at the alphabet in a creative, new way. The Line is very proud that it is straight and tall and brags about the things that it can achieve. The Line loves its family and also finds the alphabet irresistible. It can draw 15 letters, but finds the other 11 impossible to write. What happens when the Line tries to relax and bend? Is it better to stay true to oneself or to change? Using a clever approach, this refreshing tale ends with a happy solution! (amazon.com)

Marilyn Monroe by Maurice Zolotow  (not in the PLJC system)
The classic book on Marilyn Monroe, written during her lifetime and partially based on interviews with the actress herself, now illustrated and brought up to date. Originally published in 1960, Zolotow's book was the first to take Marilyn seriously as an actress at a time when she was thought to be just an eccentric, gorgeous blonde. 16 pages of photographs.  (books.google.com)

Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World's Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment by Rob Salkowitz
Welcome to Comic-Con: where the future of pop culture comes to life.  Every summer, more than 130,000 comic fans, gamers, cosplay enthusiasts, and nerds of all stripes descend on San Diego to mingle with the top entertainment celebrities and creative industry professionals in an unprecedented celebration of popular culture in all its forms.  From humble beginnings, Comic-Con has mutated into an electrifying, exhausting galaxy of movies, TV, video games, art, fashion, toys, merchandise, and buzz. It’s where the future of entertainment unspools in real time, and everyone wants to be there.

In Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, author Rob Salkowitz, a recognized expert in digital media and the global digital generation (and unabashed comics enthusiast), explores how the humble art form of comics ended up at the center of the 21st-century media universe. From Comic-Con’s massive exhibit hall and panels to its exclusive parties and business suites, Salkowitz peels back the layers to show how comics culture is influencing communications, entertainment, digital technology, marketing, education, and storytelling.

What can the world’s most approachable and adaptable art form tell us about the importance of individual talent and personal engagement in the era of the new global audience, the iPad, and the quarter-billion-dollar summer blockbuster?  Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture combines the insights business leaders need with the details fans crave about the future of the world’s most dynamic industry. Even if you can’t be in San Diego in July, this book brings the excitement into focus . . . no costumes required!  (amazon.com)

I'll Be Right Back: Memories of TV's Greatest Talk Show by Mike Douglas with Thomas Kelly and Michael Heaton
The man who ruled daytime TV for two decades displays the same engaging style that made him so enormously popular--in a memoir bursting with terrific stories told with nostalgia, wit, and more than a touch of class. 100 photos throughout.  (amazon.com)

Muscle Shoals (documentary film) (not in the PLJC system)
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the "Singing River," as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Hall brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the "Muscle Shoals sound" and The Swampers, the house band at FAME that eventually left to start their own successful studio, known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals' magnetism, mystery and why it remains influential today. - See more at: http://www.magpictures.com/muscleshoals/#sthash.5CX2bULq.dpuf

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McDonald Wallace
From the Gilded Age until 1914, more than 100 American heiresses invaded Britannia and swapped dollars for titles--just like Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, the first of the Downton Abbey characters Julian Fellowes was inspired to create after reading To Marry An English Lord. Filled with vivid personalities, gossipy anecdotes, grand houses, and a wealth of period details--plus photographs, illustrations, quotes, and the finer points of Victorian and Edwardian etiquette--To Marry An English Lord is social history at its liveliest and most accessible. (amazon.com)

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
A lavish look at the real world--both the secret history and the behind-the-scenes drama--of the spellbinding Emmy Award-winning Masterpiece TV series Downton Abbey

April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't.

Millions of American viewers were enthralled by the world of Downton Abbey, the mesmerizing TV drama of the aristocratic Crawley family--and their servants--on the verge of dramatic change. On the eve of Season 2 of the TV presentation, this gorgeous book--illustrated with sketches and research from the production team, as well as on-set photographs from both seasons--takes us even deeper into that world, with fresh insights into the story and characters as well as the social history. (amazon.com)

The Chronicles of Downton Abbey:  A New Era for Family, Friends, Lovers, and Staff by Jessica Fellowes
The Great War has ended, but Downton Abbey is far from peaceful...

"Americans can't get enough of 'Downton Abbey,'" said The Boston Globe. As Season 3 of the award-winning TV series opens, it is 1920 and Downton Abbey is waking up to a world changed forever by World War I. New characters arrive and new intrigues thrive as the old social order is challenged by new expectations.

In this new era, different family members abound (including Cora's American mother, played by Shirley MacLaine) and changed dynamics need to be resolved: Which branch of the family tree will Lord Grantham’s first grandchild belong to? What will become of the servants, both old and new?

The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, carefully pieced together at the heart and hearth of the ancestral home of the Crawleys, takes us deeper into the story of every important member of the Downton estate.This lavish, entirely new book focuses on each character individually, examining their motivations, their actions, and the inspirations behind them. An evocative combination of story, history, and behind-the-scenes drama, it will bring fans even closer to the secret, beating heart of the house. (amazon.com)

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy. (amazon.com)

A Paper Life by Tatum O'Neal
A real Hollywood-style tell-all, this is the extremely candid and highly explosive autobiography of one of the movie industry's most talented and troubled young stars.

At age ten, Tatum O'Neal became the youngest Oscar winner in history for her performance in the film classic Paper Moon. As the sidekick to her father, the flamboyant star and man-about-town Ryan O'Neal, she became a fixture at the most glamorous Hollywood parties and counted celebrities ranging from Cher to Stanley Kubrick among her childhood friends.

Yet behind the glittering fa├žade of Tatum's life lay heartbreak: abandonment, abuse, neglect, and drug addiction. She reveals the most intimate secrets of her dysfunctional relationships with her father, Ryan O'Neal, and stepmother, Farrah Fawcett, as well as her alcoholic mother, Joanna Moore, and ex-husband, tennis pro John McEnroe.

After the collapse of her marriage and with no real family to turn to, Tatum succumbed to the demons of her past that would nearly kill her. Now she has emerged clean and sober, rediscovering herself as an actress, mother, and wonderfully vibrant woman in what she considers the prime of her life. (amazon.com)

What are YOU reading?
Holley




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Caldecott Award Winners

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, December 17th at 6:30pm and the topic is any aspect of popular culture.  From celebrity gossip to China's youth, anything goes!  You pick the book and come tell us about it!

Also, 2014 will usher in a year of themes for the Genre Reading Group.  Each month, we will celebrate a holiday or commemorative month/week.  January we will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a discussion of books on the Civil Rights Movement.  Pick ANY book on that topic.

We met last night to talk about the Caldecott Award and some winners and honor books.  The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Book descriptions from amazon.com

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (author and illustrator)
What a night!
The moon is full.
Kitten is hungry
and inquisitive
and brave
and fast
and persistent
and unlucky . . .
then lucky!
What a night!

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble (author and illustrator)
"There was a girl in the village who loved horses... She led the horses to drink at the river. She spoke softly and they followed. People noticed that she understood horses in a special way."
And so begins the story of a young Native American girl devoted to the care of her tribe's horses. With simple text and brilliant illustrations. Paul Goble tells how she eventually becomes one of them to forever run free.

Song and Dance Man written by Karen Ackerman; illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Illus. in full color. "In this affectionate story, three children follow their grandfather up to the attic, where he pulls out his old bowler hat, gold-tipped cane, and his tap shoes. Grandpa once danced on the vaudeville stage, and as he glides across the floor, the children can see what it was like to be a song and dance man. Gammell captures all the story's inherent joie de vivre with color pencil renderings that leap off the pages. Bespectacled, enthusiastic Grandpa clearly exudes the message that you're only as old as you feel, but the children respond--as will readers--to the nostalgia of the moment. Utterly original."--(starred) Booklist

Snowflake Bentley written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illustrated by Mary Azarian
"Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied." -- Wilson Bentley (1865-1931)
From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley's enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist's vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.

Animals of the Bible with text selected by Helen Dean Fish; illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop
Dorothy Lathrop's Animals of the Bible won the very first Caldecott Medal when it was originally published in 1937. Now, in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of this prestigious medal and its first recipient, comes this special deluxe edition of Lathrop's award-winning collection of some of the Bible's most extraordinary animals. Thirty richly detailed black-and-white drawings illustrate the favorite stories of the Creation, Noah's Ark, the first Christmas, and many others. A glorious tribute to a great tradition in children's literature, this special anniversary edition will be a keepsake to treasure for years to come.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (author and illustrator)
When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

Sector Seven by David Wiesner (author and illustrator)
Only the person who gave us Tuesday could have devised this fantastic Caldecott Honor-winning tale, which begins with a school trip to the Empire State Building. There a boy makes friends with a mischievous little cloud, who whisks him away to the Cloud Dispatch Center for Sector 7 (the region that includes New York City). The clouds are bored with their everyday shapes, so the boy obligingly starts to sketch some new ones. . . . The wordless yet eloquent account of this unparalleled adventure is a funny, touching story about art, friendship, and the weather, as well as a visual tour de force.

Flotsam by David Wiesner (author and illustrator)
A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam - anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there's no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share ...and to keep.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (author and illustrator)
"Besides the beguiling story, the affable illustrations of the smiling Gloria, the accidental mayhem in the background, and the myriad safety tips -- such as 'always pull the toothpick out of your sandwhich' and 'never lick a stop sign in the winter' -- add to the enjoyment. A glorious picture book." -- The Horn Book "Rathmann is a quick rising star in the world of chidren's books. In this book, she again shows her flair for creating real characters, dramatic situations and for knowing what will make young audiences giggle and think." -- Children's Book Review Magazine "Rathman brings a lighter-than-air comic touch to this outstanding, solid-as-a-brick picture book." -- Publisher's Weekly "A five-star performance." -- School Library Journal

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (author and illustrator)
In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.

Black and White by David Macaulay (author and illustrator)
Four stories are told simultaneously, with each double-page spread divided into quadrants. The stories do not necessarily take place at the same moment in time, but are they really one story?

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (author and illustrator)
In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and--in two dramatic foldout spreads-- the vertiginous drama of Petit's feat.
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal, the winner of the 2004 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Picture Books, and the winner of the 2006 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video.

Owl Moon written by Jane Yolen; illustrated by John Schoenherr
"As expansive as the broad sweep of the great owl's wings and as close and comforting as a small hand held on a wintry night . . . The visual images have a sense of depth and seem to invite readers into this special nighttime world."--School Library Journal, starred review. Full color. 1988 Caldecott Medal Book.

Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott
An expression of the universal myth of the hero-quest, this beautiful story also portrays the Indian reverence for the source of life: the Solar Fire. Vibrant full-color illustrations capture the boldness and color of Pueblo art. A Caldecott Medal Book.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (author and illustrator)
Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live.  The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston.  But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home.
This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of Mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers.  Awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1941, it has since become a favorite of millions.

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale retold by Arthur Ransome; pictures by Uri Shulevitz
When the Czar proclaims that he will marry his daughter to the man who brings him a flying ship, the Fool of the World sets out to try his luck and meets some unusual companions on the way.  The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is the winner of the 1969 Caldecott Medal.

Lon Po Po: a Red Riding Hood Story from China translated and illustrated by Ed Young
"Not for the faint-hearted, Lon Po Po (Grandmother Wold), is a tale of a menacing danger and courage....(Young's) command of page composition and his sensitive use of color give the book a visual force that matches the strength of the story and stands as one of the illustrator's best efforts." --Booklist "Absolutely splendid." -- Kirkuse Reviews. "An extraordinary and powerful book." -- Publisher's Weekly

Smoky Night written by Eve Bunting; illustrated by David Diaz
In a night of rioting, Daniel and his mother are forced to leave their apartment for the safety of a shelter. “Diaz has not been afraid to take risks in illustrating the story with thickly textured paintings against a background of torn-paper and found-object collage. Without becoming cluttered or gimmicky, these pictures manage to capture a calamitous atmosphere that finally calms. . . . Both author and artist have managed to portray a politically charged event without pretense or preaching.”--The Bulletin

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

forensic fiction







Next month, the Genre Reading Group will be getting in touch with its inner child as we discuss Caldecott Award winners.  The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  I pulled a selection of the winners from the past 40 years and they will be on display at the 2nd floor Reference Desk until the meeting on Tuesday, November 26th at 6:30pm in the Library's Conference Room.

You will find a complete list of winners by clicking here.

One of our members let us know that a local author will be featured at the Birmingham Museum of Art's First Thursday program, November 7 at 7pm in BMA's lecture hall as part of the Chenoweth lecture series.  Born and raised here in Birmingham, Margaret Wrinkle (writer, film maker, educator, and artist) will present a program on the research and writing of her recent novel, Wash.  For more information, visit BMA's website at www.artsbma.org.

(amazon.com)  In this luminous debut, Margaret Wrinkle takes us on an unforgettable journey across continents and through time, from the burgeoning American South to West Africa and deep into the ancestral stories that reside in the soul. Wash introduces a remarkable new voice in American literature.  In early 1800s Tennessee, two men find themselves locked in an intimate power struggle. Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, has spent his life fighting not only for his country but also for wealth and status. When the pressures of westward expansion and debt threaten to destroy everything he’s built, he sets Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breeding sire. Wash, the first member of his family to be born into slavery, struggles to hold onto his only solace: the spirituality inherited from his shamanic mother. As he navigates the treacherous currents of his position, despair and disease lead him to a potent healer named Pallas. Their tender love unfolds against this turbulent backdrop while she inspires him to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. Once Richardson and Wash find themselves at a crossroads, all three lives are pushed to the brink.

Last night, the GRG discussed forensic fiction, mysteries/thrillers in which a forensic science is part of the plot and/or its resolution.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
(amazon.com)  Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful and brutal serial killer. In the end, she was the one who caught him…and tortured him…and then let him go. Why did Gretchen spare Archie’s life and then turn herself in? This is the question that keeps him up all night—and the reason why he has visited Gretchen in prison every week since.  Meanwhile, another series of murders is tearing up the Portland streets. Archie seems to be getting closer to solving this high-profile case…until he finds himself in a fatal collision course with the killer—one that inevitably leads him back to his former captor. Gretchen may be the only one who can help do justice. The only thing she can’t do, this time, is save Archie’s life.

The Architect by Keith Ablow
(amazon.com)  West Crosse is a stunningly brilliant, strikingly handsome architect with a love of ideal beauty and a commitment to achieving it at any cost. But the rich, powerful families who secretly engage him to design their homes don't know his dark side: Crosse can't stop at designing their dwellings. He needs to make their lives more perfect, too, even if it means a gut rehab of the family, even if the final design takes years to achieve--murdering an abusive spouse, a toxic lover, a predatory business partner or an unwanted child. As Crosse is about to embark on the master work or his creative life, the FBI puts Frank Clevenger on the case, and the ultimate cat and mouse game begins.

The Dinner by Herman Koch
(amazon.com)  An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal.  It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.  Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman
(amazon.com)  Jonathan Kellerman’s “psychology skills and dark imagination are a potent literary mix” (Los Angeles Times), and this intensely thrilling blend has never been so powerful as in the acclaimed author’s new novel of murder and madness among the beautiful dreamers, seductive predators, and doomed innocents adrift in the glare of Southern California’s eternal sunshine.  A series of horrifying events occur in quick succession in the same upscale L.A. neighborhood. A backyard renovation unearths an infant’s body, buried sixty years ago. And soon thereafter in a nearby park, another disturbingly bizarre discovery is made not far from the body of a young woman shot in the head. Helping LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis to link these eerie incidents is brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware. But even the good doctor’s vast experience with matters both clinical and criminal might not be enough to cut down to the bone of this chilling case—and draw out the disturbing truth.

 Backtracking six decades into the past stirs up tales of a beautiful nurse with a mystery lover, a handsome, wealthy doctor who seems too good to be true, and a hospital with a notorious reputation—all of them long gone, along with any records of a newborn, and destined for anonymity. But the specter of fame rears its head when the case unexpectedly twists in the direction of the highest echelons of celebrity privilege. Entering this sheltered world, Alex little imagines the macabre layer just below the surface—a decadent quagmire of unholy rituals and grisly sacrifice.  Before their work is done, Alex and Milo, “the most original whodunit duo since Watson and Holmes” (Forbes), must confront a fanatically deranged mind of such monstrous cunning that even the most depraved madman would shudder.

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
(amazon.com)  The killer strikes in plain sight . . . but you'll never see it coming.  The mutilation murder of a young college professor paralyzes a tiny Georgian community. This hideous crime is the worst thing small-town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton has ever seen—but only when the autopsy is complete is the intricate, terrible genius of a profoundly twisted psychopath truly revealed. As Sara's ex-husband—Heartsdale police chief Jeffrey Tolliver—pursues an elusive fiend, Lena Adams—the victim's sister and the county's only female detective—swears she'll have her personal vengeance. But their worst fears are realized by the macabre crucifixion of a second local woman: there is a serial slayer in their midst, one whose identity is hidden somewhere in Sara Linton's secret past. And this killer has no intention of stopping . . . and will not be stopped.

Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs
(amazon.com)  She works with the dead, but she works for the living.  "Down time" is not a phrase in Tempe Brennan's vocabulary. A string of disturbing cases has put her vacation plans on hold; instead, she heads to the lab to analyze charred remains from a suspicious fire, and a mysterious black residue from a small plane crash. But most troubling of all are the bones. . . . Tempe's daughter's new boyfriend invites them to a picnic -- a pig pickin' -- in the North Carolina countryside, where a cache of bones turns up. But are they animal or human? X-rays and DNA may link the crimes, but they can't reveal who is closing in on Tempe and her daughter -- and how far they will go to keep her from uncovering the truth.

The Bone Collector (the movie) adapted from Jeffrey Deaver's book of the same name
(amazon.com, THE MOVIE)  Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie star in the gripping suspense thriller The Bone Collector about a serial killer who takes his victims' lives and leaves behind mysterious pieces of a bizarre puzzle. It is now up to Lincoln Rhyme (Washington), a onetime top homicide investigator, who may be the only person who can make sense of his deranged plan. When a tragic accident changes his life forever, Rhyme can only watch as other cops bungle the case...until he teams up with a young rookie, Amelia Donaghy (Jolie), who bravely searches out the clues that could help them solve the case. As the killer senses the cops closing in, Rhyme realizes that he and his partner are on the trail of a vicious, sadistic murderer who will stop at nothing on his deadly mission. At any moment, Rhyme and Amelia could become his next targets - and their first case could become their last.

(amazon.com, THE BOOK)  New York City is thrown into chaos by the assaults of the Bone Collector, a serial kidnapper and killer who gives the police a chance to save his victims from death by leaving obscure clues. The cops go to Lincoln Rhyme, an ex-NYPD forensics expert left paralysed after an accident on the job. Rhyme reluctantly postpones his ambitions towards suicide and puts together a forensic investigation team, enlisting as his eyes and ears young police officer Amelia Sachs. Rhyme digs deep into the only world he has left - his astonishing mind - and slowly begins to narrow the noose around the Bone Collector. But the kidnapper is narrowing his own noose - around Lincoln Rhyme.

Political Suicide by Michael Palmer
(amazon.com)
A massive cover-up gone awry
A prominent physician accused of murder
Uncovering the truth could put the entire country at risk

Dr. Gary McHugh, known around Washington, D.C. as the “society doc,” calls his longtime friend Dr. Lou Welcome in a state of panic, certain he is about to be arrested for murder. McHugh was found in an alcoholic blackout in his wrecked car after visiting a patient of his, the powerful Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Elias Colston. Soon after McHugh leaves, Colston’s wife returns home to find her husband shot to death in their garage. McHugh has no recollection of committing the crime and no one who would possibly believe in his innocence, other than Lou. As more facts come to light, even Lou has serious doubts. But something about McHugh’s story nags at him and as he looks into matters, pieces of the puzzle don’t point to his friend’s guilt so definitively.

With the help of Sarah Cooper, an ambitious attorney with her own reasons for hating doctors, Lou finds himself at the center of a deadly, high-level conspiracy where the difference between right and wrong is a matter of interpretation, and the words “whatever it takes” have a chilling meaning. If Lou and Sarah don’t uncover the real reasons Colston is dead, they may not survive themselves, and the entire country could be at risk for attacks that could destroy the very fabric of national security.  Once again, bestselling author Michael Palmer proves that he is the king of suspense in this page-turning thriller, Political Suicide, set at the crossroads of politics, the military, and medical science.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  Another series of books that bear a resemblance to Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes series, in that the detective solves the crimes despite physical limitations, is Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries.

There are several popular TV series based on some forensic fiction series:

Rizzoli & Isles (Tess Gerritsen)
Castle (Richard Castle)
Bones (Kathy Reichs)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Books you wish you'd read

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30pm in the Library's Conference Room.  The topic of discussion will be forensic fiction, mysteries/thrillers in which the forensic sciences are used to solve the crime.

Before our next meeting, October will be chockablock full of other entertaining things to do!

- AGES 18+ ONLY, Saturday, October 12th at 5pm, come watch (somewhat) scary movies at the Nightmare on Oak Street Horror Movie Double Feature (tiny, ravenous creatures followed by comet-induced zombies) and eat pizza and other movie snacks.

- Tuesday, October 15th at 6:30pm, join us for Documentaries After Dark, featuring a film about the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.  This film is not rated but is intended for adult audiences.

- Saturday & Sunday, October 26-27th, take a stroll through the Dead Authors' Graveyard.  This walk-thru attraction is open to all ages, but may be scary for small children.
Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 1pm-4pm.



Have you ever had a book (or books) in your life that sit around on shelves or lists, but that you just never seem to get time or inclination to actually read?  Our September meeting was all about books we finally got around to reading.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel by American novelist John Kennedy Toole which appeared in 1980, eleven years after Toole's suicide. Published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy (who also contributed a foreword) and Toole's mother, the book became first a cult classic, then a mainstream success; it earned Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981, and is now considered a canonical work of modern literature of the Southern United States.  The book's title refers to an epigraph from Jonathan Swift's essay, Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him". Its central character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an educated but slothful 30-year-old man living with his mother in the Uptown neighborhood of early-1960s New Orleans who, in his quest for employment, has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters. Toole wrote the novel in 1963 during his last few months in Puerto Rico.

The Shining by Stephen King
Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

On Monday, September 24th, Stephen King was interviewed about his recently published sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, on NPR's Morning Edition.  Click here to listen to the interview.

Fahrenheit 451: 60th Anniversary Edition (with foreward by Neil Gaiman) by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.  Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.  Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.  When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

The Vantage Point: Perspectives on the Presidency 1963-1969 by Lyndon Baines Johnson
The 36th President of the United States describes the challenges, the trials and achievements of his eventful years in the White House.

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene
The bestselling author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos tackles perhaps the most mind-bending question in modern physics and cosmology: Is our universe the only universe?  There was a time when "universe" meant all there is. Everything. Yet, a number of theories are converging on the possibility that our universe may be but one among many parallel universes populating a vast multiverse. Here, Briane Greene, one of our foremost physicists and science writers, takes us on a breathtaking journey to a multiverse comprising an endless series of big bangs, a multiverse with duplicates of every one of us, a multiverse populated by vast sheets of spacetime, a multiverse in which all we consider real are holographic illusions, and even a multiverse made purely of math--and reveals the reality hidden within each.  Using his trademark wit and precision, Greene presents a thrilling survey of cutting-edge physics and confronts the inevitable question: How can fundamental science progress if great swaths of reality lie beyond our reach? The Hidden Reality is a remarkable adventure through a world more vast and strange than anything we could have imagined.

The Brushstroke Legacy by Lauraine Snelling
Forbidden. Hidden. Denied. Can art be powerful enough to endure?  Ragni Clauson’s work, relationships, and body all seem to be falling apart. And she isn’t convinced that spending her vacation fixing up her great-grandmother’s cabin and supervising her rebellious teenage niece, Erika, will offer any much-needed rejuvenation.  As Ragni and Erika clean, they begin to uncover the secret paintings and life of Nilda, Ragni’s ancestor who lived in the cabin in the early 1900s. Ragni doesn’t know how much she has in common with her great-grandmother, but it becomes clear Nilda faced her own struggles. Taking care of home and menfolk, fighting off locusts, raising her daughter, and finding time to paint in the midst of it all were not easy tasks. Will Nilda’s passion for enduring art re-ignite Ragni’s artistic soul a century later?  Weaving together the stories of three generations of women, The Brushstroke Legacy stirs us to believe that no matter the circumstances, we are called to use our gifts– never knowing when they might bring a stranger to a new place of hope.