Wednesday, July 27, 2016

feel the music

Just a reminder that the library and surrounding lots will be closed on Wednesday, August 3rd for HVAC replacement!

The next GRG meeting will be on Tuesday, August 30th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is one of my favorites, debut novels! 

Last week, the GRG discussed music and the music industry.  We kicked things off with a rousing discussion of the evolution of portable music from the wax record to the current MP3 market.  The discussion jumpstarted because one member found that each character from a favorite TV show, Halt & Catch Fire, had been given a playlist by Spotify, an online music streaming service.


80’s Tech (History Channel documentary)

Remember "brick" cell phones, Pac-Man, Rubik's Cube, Sony Walkman, and the first music CDs? Remember all the new and exciting gadgets of the 1980s? Join us as we investigate the transition from Industrial to Information Age--a digital decade dedicated to ergonomics and entertainment. The microchip ushered in an era that revolutionized the way we work, play, and communicate. And we tour Silicon Valley--birthplace of some of the greatest inventions from an amazing time of change, including the modern personal computer. Steve "Woz" Wozniak tells us about the evolution of Apple computers, and we talk to Sony--makers of the Walkman, Betamax, and the first CD players. A visit to the Computer History Museum shows fun technological "artifacts", primitive by today's standards. At Intel, makers of the first microchips, we learn why technology moves at such a fast pace. We also take a ride in a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car--few things moved faster.

Playback is the first book to place the fascinating history of sound reproduction within its larger social, economic, and cultural context-and includes appearances by everyone from Thomas Edison to Enrico Caruso to Dick Clark to Grandmaster Flash to Napster CEO Shawn Fanning. In a narrative that begins with Edison's cylinder and ends with digital music, the ubiquitous iPod, and the file-sharing wars, this is a history we have all experienced in one way or another. From the Victrola, the 78, the 45, and the 33 1/3 to the 8-track, cassette, compact disc, DAT, and MP3, the story of Playback is also the story of music, and the music business in the twentieth century and beyond.

We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. Band re-formations and reunion tours, expanded reissues of classic albums and outtake-crammed box sets, remakes and sequels, tribute albums and mash-ups . . . But what happens when we run out of past? Are we heading toward a sort of cultural, ecological catastrophe where the archival stream of pop history has been exhausted?

Simon Reynolds, one of the finest music writers of his generation, argues that we have indeed reached a tipping point, and that although earlier eras had their own obsessions with antiquity―the Renaissance with its admiration for Roman and Greek classicism, the Gothic movement's invocations of medievalism―never has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Retromania is the first book to examine the retro industry and ask the question: Is this retromania a death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own?


U2: Rattle and Hum (rockumentary)

A concert movie on an unprecedented scale. Rattle And Hum captures U2 - on and off the stage - during their triumphant Joshua Tree tour.


Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams (rockumentary)


Decadent rock star, 70s survivor, gypsy songbird, white-winged dove the inimitable Stevie Nicks has entranced millions of fans worldwide with her poetic lyrics, sultry singing and featherand-lace style. In 2010 Nicks embarked on the recording of solo album, In Your Dreams, produced by former Eurythmics mastermind Dave Stewart. With cameras in tow, documentarian Stewart and diva Nicks set up shop in her home studio and reveal their collaborative creative process. Shifting dynamically among video formats, painstaking recording sessions and revealing interviews, this magic-tinged musical journey is a loving and tuneful portrait of the eternally bewitching Gold Dust Woman.


The Doors (DVD)

Oliver Stone’s biopic of the famous and influential 1960s rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971.


M Train by Patti Smith

From the National Book Award–winning author of JustKids: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima.

Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith.

Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable multiplatform artists at work today.


On Bowie by Rob Sheffield

From the New York Times bestselling author of Love Is a Mix Tape, a thoughtful and loving meditation on the life of the late David Bowie that explores his creative legacy and the enduring and mutual connection he enjoyed with his fans

Innovative. Pioneering. Brave. Until his death in January 2016, David Bowie created art that not only pushed boundaries, but helped fans understand themselves and view the world from fantastic new perspectives.

When the shocking news of his death on January 10, 2016 broke, the outpouring of grief and adulation was immediate and ongoing. Fans around the world and across generations paid homage to this brilliant, innovate, ever evolving artist who both shaped and embodied our times.
In this concise and penetrating book, featuring color photographs, highly regarded Rolling Stone critic, bestselling author, and lifelong Bowie fan Rob Sheffield shares his own feelings about the passing of this icon and explains why Bowie’s death has elicited such an unprecedented emotional outpouring from so many lives.


Amy (rockumentary)

From BAFTA award--winning director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), AMY is the incredible story of six--time Grammy(R) award winner Amy Winehouse - in her own words. Featuring extensive never-before-seen archival footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving, and vital film shines a light on the world we live in, in a way that very few can.


From acclaimed musician and author Dave Bidini comes a brilliantly original look at a folk-rock legend and the momentous week in 1972 that culminated in the Mariposa Folk Festival.

July, 1972. As musicians across Canada prepare for the nation's biggest folk festival, held on Toronto Island, a series of events unfold that will transform the country politically, psychologically--and musically. As Bidini explores the remarkable week leading up to Mariposa, he also explores the life and times of one of the most enigmatic figures in Canadian music: Gordon Lightfoot, the reigning king of folk at the height of his career. Through a series of letters, Bidini addresses Lightfoot directly, questioning him, imagining his life, and weaving together a fascinating, highly original look at a musician at the top of his game. By the end of the week, the country is on the verge of massive change and the '72 Mariposa folk fest--complete with surprise appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and yes, Lightfoot--is on its way to becoming legendary.


Chronicling the rise of the Black Metal subculture and the terrifying violence by its fans, Lords of Chaos takes readers on a tour of this antisocial, occult-influenced ideology that encourages violence and murder.

What are YOU reading?



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

salon discussion

Last night marked the 8th anniversary of the Genre Reading Group!  Here's to many more years of good reading and great conversation!  

We met for one of our biannual salon discussions where there is no assigned topic.  What a reading free for all! Our next meeting will be earlier in July than normal, on Tuesday, July 19th and the topic up for discussion will be music.

A few housekeeping items first:

The Library will be closed Saturday-Monday, July 2-4 in observance of Independence Day.
Some exciting programs are coming up in July and August as our Adult Summer Reading program winds down!  The French Film Series continues on Wednesday July 13 and Wednesday August 17, both at 6:30pm.  Call the Reference Desk at 205-445-1121 for film titles and information.  We’re honored to once again host the Birmingham Arts Journal issue release reception and reading on Thursday, July 28th at 6:30pm. Drop by on Saturday, July 30th at 2pm to learn about using solar energy in your home.  The Adult Summer Reading Finale is on Tuesday, August 2nd at 6:30pm and it will be fan favorite, Bad Art Night.  Enjoy dinner and explore your worst creative ideas!  We can hardly wait to award our summer reading Grand Prizes!

The Library and surround lots will be closed on Wednesday, August 3rd for HVAC installation. (Dates may change depending on the weather).   Follow us on Facebook that week (and all the time!) for updates on closures and access.

On to the reading list!


In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? 

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

Wanted: A bold adventurer who wants to travel the world from a comfortable and safe spot behind a desk that has seen the likes of kings and queens, paupers and princes. A humble book and rare manuscript shop seeks a keenly intelligent investigator to assist us in our search for things thought lost, and in our quest to return lost items to their rightful owners. 

Never an adventurer, no one was more surprised than Delaney Nichols when she packed her bags and moved halfway across the world to Edinburgh, Scotland to start a job at The Cracked Spine, a bookshop located in the heart of the city. Her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, has given her the opportunity of a lifetime, albeit a cryptic one, and Delaney can’t wait to take her spot behind the desk.

The Cracked Spine is filled with everything a book lover could want, each item as eclectic as the people who work there; the spirited and lovable Rosie, who always has tiny dog Hector in tow; Hamlet, a nineteen-year-old thespian with a colored past and bright future; and Edwin, who is just as enigmatic and mysterious as Delaney expected. An extra bonus is Tom the bartender from across the street, with his cobalt eyes, and a gentle brogue―and it doesn’t hurt that he looks awfully good in a kilt.

But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact goes missing, and Edwin’s sister is brutally murdered. Never did Delaney think that searching for things lost could mean a killer, but if she’s to keep her job, and protect her new friends, she’ll need to learn the truth behind this Scottish tragedy.


Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.


Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has revolutionized homes—and lives—across the world. Now, Kondo presents an illustrated guide to her acclaimed KonMari Method, with step-by-step folding illustrations for everything from shirts to socks, plus drawings of perfectly organized drawers and closets. She also provides advice on frequently asked questions, such as whether to keep “necessary” items that may not bring you joy. With guidance on specific categories including kitchen tools, cleaning supplies, hobby goods, and digital photos, this comprehensive companion is sure to spark joy in anyone who wants to simplify their life.


Are you stressed out, overbooked, and underwhelmed by life? Fed up with pleasing everyone else before you please yourself? It's time to stop giving a f*ck.

This brilliant, hilarious, and practical parody of Marie Kondo's bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up explains how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt--and give your f*cks instead to people and things that make you happy.

The easy-to-use, two-step NotSorry Method for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a f*ck about: 

Family drama
Having a "bikini body"
Iceland
Co-workers' opinions, pets, and children
And other bullsh*t!

And it will free you to spend your time, energy, and money on the things that really matter. So what are you waiting for? Stop giving a f*ck and start living your best life today!


Enter the "completely captivating" (Jimmy Ryan, Spoiler TV) world of Mr. Robot. Cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, Elliot finds himself at a crossroads when the mysterious leader of an underground hacker group recruits him to destroy the firm he is paid to protect. Compelled by his personal beliefs, Elliot struggles to resist the chance to take down the multinational CEOs he believes are running (and ruining) the world. Now, watch all 10 Season One episodes back-to-back and uninterrupted of the psychological thriller that critics rave is "damn near perfect" (Jessica Rawden, Cinemablend).


From the creator of "Weeds" comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women's prison. Based on Piper Kerman's acclaimed memoir, "Orange Is the New Black" follows engaged Brooklynite Piper Chapman, whose wild past comes back to haunt her and results in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.


Sarah is a streetwise outsider, currently on the run from a bad relationship and painfully separated from her own daughter. When an eerily lookalike stranger commits a shocking suicide right in front of her, Sarah sees a potential solution to all her problems by assuming the dead woman’s identity and clearing out her bank account. But instead, she stumbles headlong into a kaleidoscopic thriller mystery, and soon uncovers an earth-shattering secret: she is a clone. As Sarah searches for answers, she soon learns there are more like her out there, genetically identical individuals, nurtured in wildly different circumstances. And someone is trying to kill them off, one by one.


Masters of Sex stars Golden Globe® and BAFTA Award nominee Michael Sheen and acclaimed actress Lizzy Caplan, who portray the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, Dr. William Masters and VirginiaJohnson. The series chronicles the unusual lives, romance and pop culture trajectory of Masters and Johnson and the effect their research had on the family and colleagues around them. Their study ignited a sexual revolution and took them from a Midwestern teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time magazine. 


Alice Howland, a linguistics professor, receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzhiemer’s disease and finds her family bonds wholly tested.


Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with the stylish and cerebral thriller, EX MACHINA. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company's brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test--charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan's latest experiment in artificial intelligence. That experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated--and more deceptive--than the two men could have imagined.

The Machine (not in the PLJC system)

Two computer programmers create the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, but things go terribly wrong when the British Government steals their breakthrough and teaches it to become a robotic weapon.

Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz

June 8, 1954. Several English nationals have defected to the USSR, while a witch hunt for homosexuals rages across Britain. In these circumstances, no one is surprised when a mathematician by the name of Alan Turing is found dead in his home in the sleepy suburb of Wilmslow. It is widely assumed that he has committed suicide, unable to cope with the humiliation of a criminal conviction for gross indecency. But a young detective constable, Leonard Corell, who once dreamed of a career in higher mathematics, suspects greater forces are involved.

In the face of opposition from his superiors, he begins to assemble the pieces of a puzzle that lead him to one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war: the Bletchley Park operation to crack the Nazis’ Enigma encryption code. Stumbling across evidence of Turing’s genius, and sensing an escape from a narrow life, Corell begins to dig deeper. But in the paranoid, febrile atmosphere of the Cold War, loose cannons cannot be tolerated and Corell soon realizes he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge. He is also about to be rocked by two startling developments in his own life, one of which will find him targeted as a threat to national security.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer created one of the great touchstones of English literature, a masterly collection of chivalric romances, moral allegories and low farce. A story-telling competition between a group of pilgrims from all walks of life is the occasion for a series of tales that range from the Knight’s account of courtly love and the ebullient Wife of Bath’s Arthurian legend, to the ribald anecdotes of the Miller and the Cook. Rich and diverse, The Canterbury Tales offer us an unrivaled glimpse into the life and mind of medieval England.


On July 8, 1879, Captain George Washington De Long and his team of thirty-two men set sail from San Francisco on the USS Jeanette.

Heading deep into uncharted Arctic waters, they carried the aspirations of a young country burning to be the first nation to reach the North Pole. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the Jeannette's hull was breached by an impassable stretch of pack ice, forcing the crew to abandon ship amid torrents of rushing of water. Hours later, the ship had sunk below the surface, marooning the men a thousand miles north of Siberia, where they faced a terrifying march with minimal supplies across the endless ice pack.

Enduring everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and labyrinths of ice, the crew battled madness and starvation as they struggled desperately to survive. With thrilling twists and turns, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most brutal place on Earth.


Join in the adventures of the quirky Yamada family -- from the hilarious to the touching -- brilliantly presented in a unique, visually striking comic strip style. Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage, and family life with a sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them, a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents, and a pesty daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues! Experience the little victories in life with MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS -- featuring the voice talents of comedic stars Jim Belushi and Molly Shannon.


With Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, Werner Herzog takes viewers on yet another unforgettable journey into remote and extreme natural landscapes. The acclaimed filmmaker presents this visually stunning documentary about the life of indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat. There's no telephone, running water or medical aid, The locals, whose daily routines have barely changed over the last centuries, live according to their own values and cultural traditions. With insightful commentary written and narrated by Herzog, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity.


When his orchestra disbands, Daigo Kobayashi moves back to his hometown and takes a job preparing corpses for burial. Too embarrassed to admit his new career to his family, Daigo keeps his profession a secret, until he’s faced with the death of someone close to him. Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film.


Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. 

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, ThomasEdison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.


Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar-nominatee Kate Winslet light up the screen as Jack and Rose the young lovers who find one another on the maiden voyage of the "unsinkable" R.M.S. Titanic. But when the doomed luxury liner collides with an iceberg in the frigid North Atlantic their passionate love affair becomes a thrilling race for survival. From acclaimed filmmaker James Cameron comes a tale of forbidden love and courage in the face of disaster that triumphs as a true cinematic masterpiece.



The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today—or perhaps even more so—than it was when it was first published, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. 

What are YOU reading/watching/listening to?

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?