Friday, April 24, 2015

Home with Henry: A Memoir by Anne Kaier

Reviewed by Jeanne

The guy in the blue truck seemed surprised that a middle aged woman in a gray coat would hold up traffic, but I enjoyed that momentary feeling of power.

When Anne Kaier sees the orange lump of fur in the road, she carefully drives over it, not wanting to be the one to further desecrate the body. When she looks in her rear view mirror and sees the tail move, she turns around and goes back.  She intends to just move the body out of the road, but when she feels the warmth behind his ears she takes him to her vet instead.

As it turns out, the cat isn’t badly injured.  He is, however, nearly feral, but Anne has committed herself to him. She dubs him Henry, and takes him home where he hides in her spare bedroom. Her resident cat, Lucille, doesn’t seem to mind the newcomer but is happy to still have Anne to herself.  Anne is determined to try to break through to her new addition.  She spends time in the room reading aloud, coaxes him with treats, and finally starts dismantling his little world in an effort to force him out.  

This is a slim little book, but one that’s difficult to characterize.  It’s definitely not a “how to” book, nor is it a rapturous celebration of all things feline.  It’s mostly a gentle, thoughtful book about an older, still single woman succeeding on her own terms.  It’s not maudlin, it’s not strident, and it’s not a cry in the wilderness.  It’s about relationships, trust, and being comfortable in your own skin, though the author makes all these points without preaching or pontificating or navel-gazing.  I was not surprised when I checked the author’s bio to find she is an award-winning essayist and a poet.  She writes cleanly and well.  At only 102 pages, she covers a lot of territory but in a painless way.  The book is written as a journal, and I was interested to see what each day would bring.

I enjoyed my visit with Anne and with Henry. I would like a chance to visit with them again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nevermore: Rick's Cafe, Moonshine Mystery, Karin Fossum, and Cats

Summary by Jeanne

Rick’s Café is the true story of how one woman decided to bring a bit of movie lore into reality.  Author Kathy Kriger was a diplomat assigned to Morocco when she decided to try to create a real café modeled after the one in the classic film Casablanca. Starting a business is never easy; being a foreigner and especially a woman, made the task all the more difficult.  Our reader found her to be near heroic and said the book, while slim, made for a fascinating read. A second reader complained that it was slow going but persevered, especially after watching the movie.

Many of our readers have enjoyed Scandinavian authors who became popular after Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo took off.  One of our readers had just finished his first book by Karin Fossum and had stared his second.  The Caller features her long time detective, Inspector Sejer, investigating a series of increasingly nasty pranks. Our reader said it was every bit as good as the first one.  The characters are very well developed.

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller is the second in the Moonshine Mystery Series set in the hills of Virginia.  Daisey McGovern has opened her dream bakery and things are going quite well… until some thieves steal 90 pounds of cream cheese.  Even worse, one of them manages to get himself killed in the process. The second book is every bit as good as the first.  Miller uses humor to good effect without going over the top, and avoids being condescending about the rural setting.  Our reader recommended it.  You don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this one.

Cats just seem to inspire redecorating.  Jackson Galaxy’s new book Catification has some good tips that are worth sharing about cats, cat behavior, and how human habitation fits into those plans.    However, Bob and Frances Walker were pioneers in decorating for felines and humans.  Their house has been featured on several TV programs and the library has two books featuring gorgeous photographs:  The Cats’ House and Cats Into Everything.  Bob is a gifted photographer and some of the shots have to be seen to be believed. Cat lovers should definitely treat themselves to these books!

Monday, April 20, 2015

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Reviewed by Meygan Cox

Noah and Jude have a special bond. They can read each other’s mind, finish one another’s sentences, and sense when the other is upset or in danger. No, they don’t have magical powers—they are twins with souls that appear to be intertwined. Aside from loving one another, Noah and Jude also love making art (Noah- drawing and painting; Jude- creating angels from nature) and their artistic, whimsical, beautiful mother. There is not much in life that they love more than their mother. Until one day, life changes. Jude no longer wants to create art. Instead, she wants to wear makeup (lots of it, especially red lipstick), and over time her shorts and skirts get shorter while her sun-like hair grows longer. Her mother keeps asking her if she wants to be “that girl”, which irritates Jude to no end.  Jude can feel herself growing closer and closer to the ocean’s waves and a boy who is older than her and further away from her mother and Noah. 

Meanwhile, Noah meets Brian, an eccentric, brainiac, jock who he can’t help but to fall head over heels in love. While Noah has a hunch that Brian likes him back, Brian doesn’t make a move. Therefore, Noah doesn’t either. Just to rub salt into Noah’s wounds, Brian even starts flirting with girls. Noah can’t help but to feel that Brian is just doing it all as an act to disguise who he is deep down inside. One night, Noah and Brian find themselves at a party playing 7 Minutes in Heaven. But instead of Noah spending his time in Heaven with Brian, a girl by the name of Heather is the lucky winner. After leaving the closest, Noah searches for Brian to tell him how he feels but is flummoxed to see Brian entering the closet with Jude. Something in Noah snaps, and he finds himself ripping up Jude’s artwork and doing anything else that will emotionally destroy her. Needless to say, the family is falling apart and what was once happiness and daydreams has become a cold, harsh reality.

There are so many events that take place into this book that I cannot possibly expand on each dramatic detail. Just when I thought I had reached the climax of the novel, I felt the reading rollercoaster I was on take a plunge and go a completely different way than I had imagined. While I became good at putting together the pieces of information Jude and Noah were telling me, I still found myself gasping or holding my breath, frantically turning the pages to hear the end of the tale. The author’s writing style is nothing less than wonderful. I had never read a Jandy Nelson novel before, but now I must read them all. Her words are like poetry and there were times that I felt like I was reading Dickenson or Whitman. Her quotes are outstanding. Some made me tear up, some made me smile so hard that I felt like my face would crack, and some were like a sucker punch straight to the gut.  It has been a while since I have felt like this about a novel. You know, that feeling of reading a book and falling deeply in love with the story, trying to inhale every word as if it were spring rain. Whoa. That is what this book does to me! 

This book won the 2015 Michael J. Printz award, which is awarded yearly for the best young adult book. Aside from the fact that I could write sonnets about this book, I will sum up my review by saying screaming, “GO READ THIS BOOK!!!”  

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Power of Habit, Karin Fossum, Elixir, Jackie Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt

Reported by Meygan

Nevermore opened with the discussion of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. The book discusses the neurons in our brains and what exactly causes habits to form. The reader said it goes like this: first there is a cue, then a routine, then a reward. For example, if someone gets a cue to eat something sweet at a certain hour or on a specific day, then the routine is to eat that something sweet; hence, the reward is eating something sweet and tasty. But what happens when you are trying to watch your diet and cut out sweets? Well, the author states that the cues never go away. However, you can change the routine. Therefore, when you get the cue that it is time to eat something sweet, do not give into the routine of eating a chocolate cupcake or a glazed doughnut, as difficult as that may be. Instead, change your routine and do something different to “reward” yourself! The reader said although there are very interesting parts, there are a few pages she skimmed over due to the information not being particularly interesting. Another Nevermore member recommended that she read the beginning and the end but skip the middle. There is even a section about a habit that the author had to break and how he did so. Duhigg also talks about corporations and advertising and how they have changed culture by creating products, such as Febreeze, that cause consumers to develop habits. 

We have discussed Broken by Karin Fossum in Nevermore before (it is a mystery novel where  the narrator, who is an author, is awakened by a man that she has created through her own imagination and asks her to write his story). Another Nevermore attempted Broken but could not finish it. Most Nevermore members have a 35 page rule, meaning that if the reader doesn’t like the book within 35 pages, then it is a sign to move on. The story could not hold her attention. But this is why we love coming to Nevermore—it is wonderful that us book lovers can agree and disagree about books, all while enjoying our doughnuts, hot coffee, and the company of one another, of course. 

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story by Barbara Leaming was discussed next. This book focuses on Jackie Kennedy’s post-traumatic stress disorder that developed after her husband, John F Kennedy, was assassinated. Our Nevermore reader said Barbara Leaming approached the topic with a narcissist view about Jackie Kennedy and her opinions are not very flattering. The reader isn’t sure if she would recommend the book and thought the book would really dish the dirt about Jackie but didn’t. 

Next was Barbara J. Martin’s Elixir: The American Tragedy of a Deadly Drug. This is the true story of a deadly drug, which was created in our very hometown! The drug, called Elixir Sulfanilamide, was developed to help patients take sulfa drugs without the bitter taste of sulfur. However, shortly after the drug was prescribed, some of the patients started dying. The Massengill Company ordered a recall but did not specify why. This book focuses on the deadly drug and how it killed more than 100 people, many of them children.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard was highly enjoyed. The Nevermore reader said this book reminded her why paper books are better than online books because the paper book had pictures while her Kindle did not. The River of Doubt is about the true adventure of Theodore Roosevelt and his trip down the Amazon. On this trip, he encountered Indians with poison-tipped arrows, piranhas, snakes, and rapid rivers. Roosevelt survived a treacherous trip that killed three men, but this book gives a deeper insight to Roosevelt’s actions and feelings. The Nevermore reader was fascinated with the story and couldn’t understand how Roosevelt and the others could have been so careless when planning for this trip.