Thursday, June 2, 2016

young adult novels

Welcome to the Genre Reading Group recap!  Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 28th at 6:30pm and it will be one of our biannual Salon Discussions.  There is no assigned topic so participants may bring/read/watch/listen to anything they’d like! 

Some of our big Adult Summer Reading programs coming up include an all-ages self defense class for women on Saturday, June 4th at 2pm, the next movie in the French Film Series, Band of Outsiders, on Wednesday, June 15th at 6:30pm, and Literary Trivia Night on Thursday, June 16th at 6:30pm (For adults ages 18+ only, call 205-445-1121 to register your team of 1-4 people).

Last night, GRG met to discuss young adult novels:

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
A sharply honest and moving debut perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Ask the Passengers

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn't exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley's life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it's really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley's starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley's real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.  From debut author Jeff Garvin comes a powerful and uplifting portrait of a modern teen struggling with high school, relationships, and what it means to be a person.

Feed by M.T. Anderson 
For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The audiobook version of Feed is particularly fine!  You should check it out!

Marie, Dancing by Caroline Meyer
Marie van Goethem, a fourteen-year-old ballet dancer in the Paris Opéra, has led a life of hardship and poverty. For her, dancing is the only joy to counter the pain inflicted by hunger, her mother's drinking, and her selfish older sister. When famed artist Edgar Degas demands Marie's presence in his studio, it appears that her life will be transformed: He will pay her to pose for a new sculpture, and he promises to make her a star. But will being Degas's model really bring Marie all she hopes for?

The Pelican Bride by Beth White
It is 1704 when Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a French ship headed for the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Both have promised to marry one of the rough-and-tumble Canadian men in this New World in order to escape religious persecution in the Old World. Genevieve knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of beheading. But when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose courageous stand for fair treatment of native peoples has made him decidedly unpopular in the young colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. And a secret she harbors could mean the undoing of the colony itself. Gulf Coast native Beth White brings vividly to life the hot, sultry south in this luscious, layered story of the lengths we must go to in order to be true to ourselves, our faith, and our deepest loves.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
The complete Gulf Coast Chronicles series to present is The Pelican Bride, The Creole Princess, and The Magnolia Duchess.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
You can’t really go wrong with a John Green book - An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and The Fault In Our Stars.

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
Out of a rare American tradition, sweet as hay, grounded in the gentle austerities of the Book of Shaker, and in the Universal countryman's acceptance of birth, death, and the hard work of wresting a life from the land comes this haunting novel of a Vermont farm boyhood.  In the daily round of his thirteenth year, as the seasons turn and the farm is tended, the boy -- whose time is the only-yesterday of Calvin Coolidge, whose people are the Plain People living without "frills" in the Shaker Way -- becomes a man.

That is all, and it is everything. The boy is mauled by Apron, the neighbor's ailing cow whom he helps, alone, to give birth. The grateful farmer brings him a gift -- a newborn pig. His father at first demurs ("We thank you, Brother Tanner," said Papa, "but it's not the Shaker Way to take frills for being neighborly. All that Robert done was what any farmer would do for another") but is persuaded. Rob keeps the pig, names her, and gives her his devotion ... He wrestles with grammar in the schoolhouse. He hears rumors of sin. He is taken -- at last -- to the Rutland Fair. He broadens his heart to make room even for Baptists. And when his father, who can neither read nor cipher, whose hands are bloodied by his trade, whose wisdom and mastery of country things are bred in the bone, entrusts Rob with his final secret, the boy makes the sacrifice that completes his passage into manhood.  All is told with quiet humor and simplicity. Here are lives lived by earthy reason -- in a novel that, like a hoedown country fiddler's tune, rings at the same time with both poignancy and cheer.

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.  Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!

The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it," begins Richard Peck's latest novel, a book full of his signature wit and sass. Russell Culver is fifteen in 1904, and he's raring to leave his tiny Indiana farm town for the endless sky of the Dakotas. To him, school has been nothing but a chain holding him back from his dreams. Maybe now that his teacher has passed on, they'll shut the school down entirely and leave him free to roam.

No such luck. Russell has a particularly eventful season of schooling ahead of him, led by a teacher he never could have predicted-perhaps the only teacher equipped to control the likes of him: his sister Tansy. Despite stolen supplies, a privy fire, and more than any classroom's share of snakes, Tansy will manage to keep that school alive and maybe, just maybe, set her brother on a new, wiser course.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  We briefly discussed what separates a novella from a short story.  The general consensus amongst several writing resources I looked at is that a short story can vary anywhere from 1,000-20,000 words and in most markets a novella is 30,000-60,000 words.

What are YOU reading?


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Disasters

The next GRG meeting will be on Tuesday, May 31st at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be young adult novels.

Last night, GRG discussed disasters, both man-made and natural. Today, as we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the deadly central Alabama tornadoes of April 27, 2011, don't forget about the many other world-wide disasters that have affected and/or are affecting our planet.


The PBS program NOVA: Mount St. Helens: Back From The Dead will show you the awesome power and majesty of nature’s most destructive force: the volcano. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, every living thing in the blast zone was burned, buried or otherwise destroyed. However, life began to bloom again, and biologist Charlie Crisafulli documented the return of plant and animal life. Also, the mountain, like the wildlife, is coming back to life. NOVA presents a pioneering look at the interplay between biology and geology that may help scientists predict future volcanic eruptions. 60 minutes.


Discover how human beings react to danger–and what makes the difference between life and death

Today, nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims?

In her quest to answer these questions, award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley traces human responses to some of recent history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917–one of the biggest explosions before the invention of the atomic bomb–to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. To understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts. She even has her own brain examined by military researchers and experiences, through realistic simulations, what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.

Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain’s fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better–with just a little help.


The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived—those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave—Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.

As only great history can, Egan's book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage. Combining the human drama of Isaac's Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history. Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of four books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.


At once sobering and thrilling, this illustrated history recounts how, for the past three hundred years, hurricanes have altered lives and landscapes along the Georgia-South Carolina seaboard. A prime target for the fierce storms that develop in the Atlantic, the region is especially vulnerable because of its shallow, gradually sloping sea floor and low-lying coastline.

With an eye on both natural and built environments, Fraser's narrative ranges from the first documented storm in 1686 to recent times in describing how the lowcountry has endured some of the severest effects of wind and water. This chronology of the most notable lowcountry storms is also a useful primer on the basics of hurricane dynamics.

Fraser tells how the 800-ton Rising Sun foundered in open water near Charles Town during the hurricane of 1700. About one hundred persons were aboard. All perished. Drawing on eyewitness accounts, he describes the storm surge of an 1804 hurricane that submerged most of Tybee Island and swept over the fort on nearby Cockspur Island, drowning soldiers and civilians. Readers may have their own memories of Hurricanes Andrew, Opal, and Hugo. Although hurricanes frequently lead to significant loss of life, Fraser recounts numerous gripping instances of survival and rescue at sea and ashore.

The author smoothly weaves the lowcountry's long social, political, and economic history with firsthand reports and data accumulated by the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Generously illustrated with contemporary and historical photographs, this is a readable and informative resource on one of nature's most awesome forces.


The 2000s—the first decade of the new millennium ushered in a new age of information including the Internet and electronic media. The early years are marked by economic slowdown, political divisiveness, and unprecedented terrorism. U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq achieve their initial goals, before devolving into bloody guerrilla conflicts. International competition for energy resources escalates dramatically. The U.S. was attacked in 2001 changing the face of New York City forever. In 2008, a time of change started when Barack Obama was elected president. Through dozens of photos and text see how the history of this decade unfolds.


Provides timely and up-to-date facts, context, perspectives, and tools to make informed decisions about nuclear energy.

• Surveys five decades of controversy and examines the effects of nuclear disasters
• Explains why nuclear power is being proposed as an important solution to the problem of global climate change
• Supplies opinions from experts and advocates regarding the future of the nuclear industry
• Provides overview information on technical topics such as the nuclear power cycle, from uranium mine to waste storage; and the differences between reactor designs and their associated benefits and risks

Nuclear Nation (Hoopla Documentary, 2013)

A documentary about the exile of Futabaʼs residents, the region housing the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.The day after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, Futaba locals heard the hydrogen explosion at Reactor Number 1 and were showered with nuclear fallout. In response, the Japanese government designated the whole town as an "exclusion zone" and 1,400 of the town's residents fled to an abandoned high school 250 kilometers away. The entire community, including the Town Hall office, was moved into the four-story building, making the residents nuclear refugees. The film portrays the evacuees as the nuclear disaster situation changes over time.


Preparing for the Worst details the best practices in anti-terrorism tactics and preparing for disaster. This book is for typical American families, business travelers, corporate executive management personnel, emergency first responders, school administrators, and local government officials responsible for public safety and emergency management.

Americans are regularly bombarded with reports of disaster and tragedy in the daily news. Catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, violent crimes, and terrorism are so common and routine that many of us have become numb to the stories. Without a heightened awareness, focused concern, and effective planning, we have lost the edge that can save lives.

Do you know what you should do to protect your family during a disaster? Does your neighbor have the knowledge required to survive a catastrophic event? Part of the solution is rooted in common sense, but much more depends upon effectively applying learned survival skills. Americans need a helpful reference tool―a Swiss army knife for handling today's threats. This book is that tool.
A former U.S. Marine and Desert Storm veteran, Schaefer-Jones has experienced calamity firsthand. He is also a concerned husband and the father of three young children. While considering how he would personally handle a disastrous event close to home, he came to realize that a comprehensive how-to guide was not available―until now.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire by Marc Taylor Nobleman

Sweatshops in the early 1900s were notorious for overworking their employees in poor conditions. Since many of the workers were immigrants in desperate need of a job, employers forced the workers to labor through hours of overtime without any compensation. One such sweatshop, The Triangle Waist Company, disregarded the buildings safety codes, which led to a major fire in 1911. The company, which occupied the top three floors of the 10-story Asch Building, burned quickly, with large amounts of fabric and wood feeding the fire. With the exits blocked, hundreds of workers frantically scrambled to save themselves any way they could. The disaster would prove to be a driving force behind workers rights.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire by Sabrina Crewe and Adam Schaefer

The United States has been shaped by the people and events of its past. This series vividly describes events that had a major impact on U.S. history and introduces young readers to the people who shaped them. The easy-to-read text, historic art and photography, suggested activities, and clear, simple maps help bring to life the cause of these events, their effects on people at the time, and their significance today. This book explains the circumstances of factory labour in the early 1900s that led to the tragic fire that killed 146 people.


On March 25, 1911, flames rapidly consumed everything within the Triangle Waist Company factory, killing 146 workers. The victims, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, died needlessly due to unsafe working conditions, such as locked or blocked doors, narrow stairways, faulty fire escapes, and a lack of sprinklers. Until September 11, 2001, the Triangle fire was the deadliest workplace disaster in New York City history. Mass grief and outrage spread from New York's Lower East Side across the country. Garment union membership swelled, and New York politics shifted dramatically toward reform, paving the way for the New Deal and, ultimately, the workplace standards expected today. Through historic images, The New York City Triangle Factory Fire honors the victims' sacrifice and serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for the dignity of all working people.



From Booklist:  Starting with an account of a deadly factory fire that occurred four months prior to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, this history traces the political and economic conditions that led to the horrific tragedy. Getzinger defines such terms as shirtwaist and sweatshop, provides essential historical, political, and labor-movement background, and reminds readers that dangerous work conditions still exist. Separating documented information from sensationalistic rumor, this evenhanded history is illustrated throughout with fascinating period photos. Back matter includes a time line, book and Web resources, and source notes for quotes. Grades 6-10. --Linda Perkins


Triangle is a poignantly detailed account of the 1911 disaster that horrified the country and changed the course of twentieth-century politics and labor relations. On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building’s upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren’t tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. The final toll was 146 people—123 of them women. It was the worst disaster in New York City history. Triangle is a vibrant and immensely moving account that Bob Woodward calls, “A riveting history written with flare and precision.”

On April 27, 2011, a powerful tornado ripped through the heart of Tuscaloosa, Ala., leaving 53 dead and a path of unimaginable devastation. In the aftermath, Alabama coach Nick Saban and his football team went out into the community, sharing its grief and aiding in the recovery. Together they forged an unbreakable bond, and in a place where Saturdays are dedicated to Crimson Tide football, "Let's play for Tuscaloosa" became a rallying cry, an emotional touchstone that transcended the playing field.

Barrett Jones, a 300-pound tackle, went street by street with a chain saw clearing debris. Long snapper Carson Tinker, who endured terrible personal tragedy in the storm, emerged as the public face of Tuscaloosa's resilience. Diehard fans Bob and Dana Dowling lost their home but saw a new one raised by the muscle of Crimson Tide players. The rebuilding effort became a heartfelt crusade; the football team was now competing for a cause much greater than a national championship. In The Storm and the Tide, Lars Anderson chronicles the rise of a team, the building of a dynasty and the resurgence of a town.

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides.

A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

At the end of the nineteenth century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation’s burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal.

Graced by David McCullough’s remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing, classic portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.

What are YOU reading?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Southern Novels and Authors

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be all things disaster, natural or man-made.  Last night, our Genre Reading group met to talk about southern authors and novels.


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it....

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants--from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys--except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down--along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy--if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom--or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own....



The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
In this irresistible novel, Sarah Addison Allen, author of the New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever.

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.


In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling. A Land More Kind than Home is a modern masterwork of Southern fiction, reminiscent of the writings of John Hart (Down River), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), Ron Rash (Serena), and Pete Dexter (Paris Trout)—one that is likely to be held in the same enduring esteem as such American classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and ASeparate Peace. A brilliant evocation of a place, a heart-rending family story, a gripping and suspenseful mystery—with A Land More Kind than Home, a major American novelist enthusiastically announces his arrival.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis CovingtonFor New York Times reporter Dennis Covington, what began as a journalistic assignment—covering the trial of an Alabama pastor convicted of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes—would evolve into a headlong plunge into a bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible world of unshakable faith: the world of holiness snake handling. Set in the heart of Appalachia, Salvation on Sand Mountain is Covington’s unsurpassed and chillingly captivating exploration of the nature, power, and extremity of faith—an exploration that gradually turns inward, until Covington finds himself taking up the snakes.


Time Assassins by R. Kyle Hannah
History has always been written by the victor, but in the shadows, history has been manipulated by an ancient Guild of Time Assassins. Until now. Rick Brewer, assassin's apprentice, is sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. He escapes to a distant past and, stranded in time, seeks revenge against the Guild by creating instability in the time-line by choosing powerful targets - The Presidents of the United States of America. Reginald Mayweather is a ruthless business tycoon and not one to accept no as an answer, but when a business prospect fails, he demands the help of the Assassin's Guild to eradicate the competition by killing his competitor's ancestors. If successful, it could prove disastrous to the time-line on a global scale. Jason Lassiter joined the Assassin's Guild because he wanted to experience history first hand. Little does he know that his future, and the future of the Guild, rests in his hands.


Nexus by Brian Weimer
Following recent sightings of mysterious lights in the night sky, the account of a traumatized woman, and a local suicide, supernatural investigator Josh Blair and University student Daniel Summers are drawn into the heart of the battle between good and evil, uncovering the connection to seemingly unrelated events as powerful dark forces threaten to destroy them and their entire city.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
The Haunted Mesa by Louis L’AmourThe Navajo called them the Anasazi, the “ancient enemy,” and their abandoned cities haunt the canyons and plateaus of the Southwest. For centuries the sudden disappearance of these people baffled historians. Summoned to a dark desert plateau by a desperate letter from an old friend, renowned investigator Mike Raglan is drawn into a world of mystery, violence, and explosive revelations. Crossing a border beyond the laws of man and nature, he will learn of the astonishing world of the Anasazi and discover the most extraordinary frontier ever encountered.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria RussellThe Sparrow is a novel about a remarkable man, a living saint, a life-long celibate and Jesuit priest, who undergoes an experience so harrowing and profound that it makes him question the existence of God. This experience--the first contact between human beings and intelligent extraterrestrial life--begins with a small mistake and ends in a horrible catastrophe.

In a small Mississippi town, two men are torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy in this resonant new novel from the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed Hell at the Breech.

Larry Ott and Silas ''32'' Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother -- their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again. Her stepfather tried to have Larry arrested but no body was found and Larry never confessed. The incident shook up the town, including Silas, and the bond the boys shared was irrevocably broken.

Almost thirty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence in Chabot, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion, the looks of blame that have shadowed him. Silas left home to play college baseball, but now he's Chabot's constable. The men have few reasons to cross paths, and they rarely do -- until fate intervenes again.

Another teenaged girl has disappeared, causing rumors to swirl once again. Now, two men who once called each other friend are finally forced to confront the painful past they've buried for too many years.


The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
The Optimist's Daughter is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.


I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
The beloved Fannie Flagg is at her irresistible and hilarious best in I Still Dream About You, a comic mystery romp through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, past, present, and future.

Meet Maggie Fortenberry, a still beautiful former Miss Alabama. To others, Maggie’s life seems practically perfect—she’s lovely, charming, and a successful agent at Red Mountain Realty. Still, Maggie can’t help but wonder how she wound up living a life so different from the one she dreamed of as a child. But just when things seem completely hopeless, and the secrets of Maggie’s past drive her to a radical plan to solve it all, Maggie discovers, quite by accident, that everybody, it seems, has at least one little secret.

I Still Dream About You is a wonderful novel that is equal parts southern charm, murder mystery, and that perfect combination of comedy and old-fashioned wisdom that can be served up only by America’s own remarkable Fannie Flagg.


Miss Susie Slagle’s (not in library system, but you may order via the link to Interlibrary Loan) by Augusta Tucker Townsend 
Originally published in 1939, Miss Susie Slagle's spent half a year on the national best-seller lists, went through twenty-three hardcover printings, and became a major Hollywood motion picture produced by John Houseman. Augusta Tucker's beloved novel of Baltimore in the halcyon years before the Great War -- and of the Johns Hopkins medical students who boarded at Miss Susie Slagle's house on Biddle Street -- is richly detailed and warmly nostalgic.


Overheard In a Drugstore by Andrew Glaze
Andrew Glaze's poetry has been described as "funny, quixotic, and very wise," while writer Norman Rosten once called him "a serious, irreverent poet, capable of setting off fireworks in the museum." Overheard in a Drugstore continues in that maverick tradition, offering poems that are humorous, affectionate, moving, evocative, and controversial -- sometimes simultaneously.

From poems such as "Blue Ridge" and "Sunset Rock," in which he artfully overlaps a current landscape with ghosts of the past, to "Fishermen," in which he compares writers to anglers aiming to hook the perfect prose, his unique voice paints vivid imagery for the reader.

Glaze has been highly praised in the New York Times, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and honored with awards from Poetry Magazine and the Southeastern Booksellers Association. His first full-length collection, Damned Ugly Children (1966) was named a "Notable Book" by the American Library Association. He is in the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame and served as the Eleventh Poet Laureate of Alabama. He died February 7, 2016 at the age of 95.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
Zora’s Roots: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (Documentary film)This documentary examines the life of author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. The film follows Hurston, best known for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, to the subtropical paradise that shaped her childhood and her life's work - where she returned again and again for inspiration and solace. This documentary tells her story through the people who knew her and the places and events that she brought to the world through her writing.
Irene Latham
Irene Latham is the award winning author of two novels for children LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. She also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has published three volumes of poetry for adults. Her current focus is on poetry for children with the 2014 release of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, which was named an SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book, and two 2016 titles: FRESH DELICIOUS and WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA

What are YOU reading?


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hollywood, old and new

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday, March 29th at 6:30pm in the library’s conference room.  The topic up for discussion is southern authors & novels.  Grab one and join us!
Emmet O’Neal Library is please to again partner with the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center for the Holocaust In Film movie series.  Visit our website for times, dates, and titles at http://www.eolib.org/adults-specialevents.php

This week, GRG met to talk about all things Hollywood.  From the seedy underbelly to some of the most recognizable landmarks in the country to the stars and other celebrities who captivate millions around the world, Tinseltown shined in our discussion.

(amazon) The Golden Age of Hollywood, dating to the hazy depths of the early 20th Century, was an era of movie stars worshipped by the masses and despotic studio moguls issuing decrees from poolside divans… but despite the world-wide reach of the movie industry, little more than memories of that era linger amidst the freeways and apartment complexes of today’s Los Angeles. Noted archaeologist Paul G. Bahn digs into the material traces of that Tinseltown in an effort to document and save the treasures that remain.

Bahn leads readers on a tour of this singular culture, from the industrial zones of film studios to the landmarks where the glamorous lived, partied, and played, from where they died and were buried to how they’ve been memorialized for posterity. The result is part history, part archaeology—enlivened with pop culture, reminiscence, and whimsy—and throughout, it feeds and deepens our fascination with an iconic place and time, not to mention the personalities who brought it to life.

(amazon) True tales of celebrity hijinks are served up with an equal measure of Hollywood history, movie-star mayhem, and a frothy mix of forty cocktail recipes.

Humphrey Bogart got himself arrested for protecting his drinking buddies, who happened to be a pair of stuffed pandas. Ava Gardner would water-ski to the set of Night of the Iguana holding a towline in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Barely legal Natalie Wood would let Dennis Hopper seduce her if he provided a bathtub full of champagne. Bing Crosby’s ill-mannered antics earned him the nickname “Binge Crosby.” And sweet Mary Pickford stashed liquor in hydrogen peroxide bottles during Prohibition. From the frontier days of silent film up to the wild auteur period of the 1970s, Mark Bailey has pillaged the vaults of Hollywood history and lore to dig up the true―and often surprising―stories of seventy of our most beloved actors, directors, and screenwriters at their most soused.

Bite-size biographies are followed by ribald anecdotes and memorable quotes. If a star had a favorite cocktail, the recipe is included. Films with the most outrageous booze-soaked stories, like Apocalypse Now, From Here to Eternity, and The Misfits, are featured, along with the legendary watering holes of the day (and the recipes for their signature drinks). Edward Hemingway’s portraits complete this spirited look at America’s most iconic silver-screen legends.

“This book is like being at the best dinner party in the world. And I thought I was the first person to put a bar in my closet. I was clearly born during the wrong era.” ―Chelsea Handler

Hollywood Babylon II by Kenneth Anger
(amazon) Originally published in Paris, this is a collection of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets from the pen of Kenneth Anger, a former child movie actor who grew up to become one of America's leading underground film-makers.

Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg
(amazon) Few American icons provoke more enduring fascination than Charles Lindbergh—renowned for his one-man transatlantic flight in 1927, remembered for the sorrow surrounding the kidnapping and death of his firstborn son in 1932, and reviled by many for his opposition to America's entry into World War II. Lindbergh's is "a dramatic and disturbing American story," says the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and this biography—the first to be written with unrestricted access to the Lindbergh archives and extensive interviews of his friends, colleagues, and close family members—is "the definitive account."


You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again by Robin, Liza, Linda, and Tiffany As Told To Jennie Frankel
(amazon) This all-true tell-all follows the lives of three women living in the "cesspool" called Hollywood. From Jack Nicholson to Heidi Fleiss to Sylvester Stallone, this scintillating book exposes a seedy side of the movie making industry, equally as insidious as the business truths exposed in You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again--and twice as intriguing.

(amazon) Mesmerizing, revelatory text combines with more than two hundred photographs -- most of them taken by the author -- in a startling illustrated memoir that will both astonish and move you.

When Dominick Dunne lived and worked in Hollywood, he had it all: a beautiful family, a glamorous career, and the friendship of the talented and powerful. He also had a camera and loved to take pictures. These photographs, which Dunne carefully preserved in more than a dozen leatherbound scrapbooks -- along with invitations, telegrams, personal notes, and other memorabilia -- record the parties, the glittering receptions, the society weddings, and scenes from the everyday lives of the Dunnes and those they knew, including Jane Fonda, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Brooke Hayward, Jennifer Jones, and David Selznick.

You'll meet them all in this fascinating book -- captured in snapshots as these celebrities relax at poolside barbecues, gossip at cozy get-togethers and dance at the Dunnes' dazzling black-and-white ball. And you will meet Dominick Dunne's beautiful wife, Lenny, and his children, Griffin, Alex, and Dominique, as they celebrate Christmases, birthdays, and graduations.  But, most of all, you will meet Dominick Dunne and learn about the peaks and valleys of his years in Hollywood, the disastrous turn his life took, and the long road back that led to his triumphant career as a writer. With its engaging photographs and candid text, The Way We Lived Then is a riveting and unvarnished account of a life among the stars and a life almost lost.

(amazon) Hollywood's famous sign, constructed of massive white block letters set into a steep hillside, is an emblem of the movie capital it looms over. Mixing social history, urban studies, literature, and film, this book offers an account of how a temporary structure has become a permanent icon of American culture.


Hollywood: Then and Now by Rosemary Lord
(amazon) Moorish and Spanish revival architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright homes still stand alongside modern structures such as Frank Gehry's breathtaking Disney Concert Hall. This book features early photographs matched with specially commissioned contemporary images of the same locations, including Graumann's Chinese Theatre and the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, and show what has changed and what has remained after 100 years of Hollywood. Sites include Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood and Vine, Immaculate Heart High School, Beachwood Village, Hollywoodland, Griffith Observatory, Hollywood High School, Gower Street, Lasky Studios, Fox Studios, Chaplin Field, MGM Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, Paramount, Hollywood Forever Cemetry, Chateau Marmont, Whitley Heights, Roosevelt Hotel, and the Garden of Allah.

Alas, not in the public libraries of Jefferson County. (amazon) An irreverent look at how a fertile imagination and 21st century technology can turn the most unlikely business into an exciting--and profitable--undertaking. The Young and The Dead tells the story of how the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery became Hollywood Forever: a metamorphosis from decrepit burial ground to a modern, interactive, state-of-the-art facility, with touch-screen kiosks and a gift shop complete with souvenirs. And how a cemetery became, according to LA magazine, one of the sexiest places in LA.

Take a tour of the cemetery in the attached video!


(amazon) In 1836 in East Texas, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanches. She was raised by the tribe and eventually became the wife of a warrior. Twenty-four years after her capture, she was reclaimed by the U.S. cavalry and Texas Rangers and restored to her white family, to die in misery and obscurity. Cynthia Ann's story has been told and re-told over generations to become a foundational American tale. The myth gave rise to operas and one-act plays, and in the 1950s to a novel by Alan LeMay, which would be adapted into one of Hollywood's most legendary films, The Searchers, "The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest... and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made!" directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.

Glenn Frankel, beginning in Hollywood and then returning to the origins of the story, creates a rich and nuanced anatomy of a timeless film and a quintessentially American myth. The dominant story that has emerged departs dramatically from documented history: it is of the inevitable triumph of white civilization, underpinned by anxiety about the sullying of white women by "savages." What makes John Ford's film so powerful, and so important, Frankel argues, is that it both upholds that myth and undermines it, baring the ambiguities surrounding race, sexuality, and violence in the settling of the West and the making of America.


Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog by James Grissom
(amazon) An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.

At a moment in the life of Tennessee Williams when he felt he had been relegated to a “lower artery of the theatrical heart,” when critics were proclaiming that his work had been overrated, he summoned to New Orleans a hopeful twenty-year-old writer, James Grissom, who had written an unsolicited letter to the great playwright asking for advice. After a long, intense conversation, Williams sent Grissom on a journey on the playwright’s behalf to find out if he, Tennessee Williams, or his work, had mattered to those who had so deeply mattered to him, those who had led him to what he called the blank page, “the pale judgment.”

Among the more than seventy giants of American theater and film Grissom sought out, chief among them the women who came to Williams out of the fog: Lillian Gish, tiny and alabaster white, with enormous, lovely, empty eyes (“When I first imagined a woman at the center of my fantasia, I . . . saw the pure and buoyant face of Lillian Gish. . . . [She] was the escort who brought me to Blanche”) . . . Maureen Stapleton, his Serafina of The Rose Tattoo, a shy, fat little girl from Troy, New York, who grew up with abandoned women and sad hopes and whose job it was to cheer everyone up, goad them into going to the movies, urge them to bake a cake and have a party.  (“Tennessee and I truly loved each other,” said Stapleton, “we were bound by our love of the theater and movies and movie stars and comedy. And we were bound to each other particularly by our mothers: the way they raised us; the things they could never say . . . The dreaming nature, most of all”) . . . Jessica Tandy (“The moment I read [Portrait of a Madonna],” said Tandy, “my life began. I was, for the first time . . . unafraid to be ruthless in order to get something I wanted”) . . . Kim Stanley . . . Bette Davis . . . Katharine Hepburn . . . Jo Van Fleet . . . Rosemary Harris . . . Eva Le Gallienne (“She was a stone against which I could rub my talent and feel that it became sharper”) . . . Julie Harris . . . Geraldine Page (“A titanic talent”) . . . And the men who mattered and helped with his creations, including Elia Kazan, José Quintero, Marlon Brando, John Gielgud . . .James Grissom’s Follies of God is a revelation, a book that moves and inspires and uncannily catches that illusive “dreaming nature.”

(amazon) Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen is an unprecedented look at the bond between two of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. Utter opposites ... nothing in common. The cowboy and the suburbanite. The conservative and the liberal. And yet these two artists (a word both men scoffed at) were the best of friends, right up to their deaths a mere seven weeks apart in 1961. But is the friendship of these two men really so surprising? A study of these two men is a study of the 20th century. Their internationally renowned careers (Gary Cooper, two Best Actor Academy Awards; Ernest Hemingway, Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes) were played out over the same turbulent decades: the hedonistic 20s, the grim Depression 30s, the war-ravaged 40s, and the deceptively slumbering 50s; throughout, their public and private lives connected, parted, re-connected, intertwined, over-lapped, and collided. It is no small irony that the lives of these two men should suffer untimely ends at the dawn of the erupting sixties. Their final, poignant chapter closed at the beginning of a decade which would challenge many of the very ideals and precepts which both men so prominently represented.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Looking ahead to next month’s discussion of southern authors and novels, one member remarked on an excellent episode of the Diane Rehm show during which she interviewed William Faulkner’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells.

Visit The Diane Rehm Show website to listen to the interview. https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-03-30/dean-faulkner-wells-every-day-sun

What are YOU reading, watching, and/or listening to?

Holley