Friday, May 29, 2015

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nevermore: Sociopaths, Rabid, Automobiles, Dogs, and More!

 Reported by Meygan

Nevermore opened with the discussion of Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender. The book entails exactly what the title states—Bender takes random awkward family photos and compiles them into a book. The reader said the photos made her laugh out loud and that the book was a quick read. You can see more awkward family photos at

The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout was mentioned next. This book provides readers the overview of what a sociopath is and how sociopaths came to be. The Nevermore reader said the book is very informative and made her feel normal. She did say that a former president is mentioned as being a sociopath, which piqued the interest of several people in our Nevermore group. She also learned that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths, so the next time you are at a party make sure to examine the room. If you can’t find the sociopath, then it may be you.  Of course, I’m just kidding.

The same Nevermore member also read Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik. Author and journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy examine the deadly virus rabies. The reader reviewed the book last week and stated that she didn’t particularly care for Rabid. However, after she skipped a couple of chapters, she liked the book after all! She stated that there were several Amazon reviewers who wrote that they were totally bored by the book at first but after they skipped a few chapters just as she did, they found the book to be interesting.
Next was Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawks, which is a true story. Helen is an experienced falconer, but it isn’t until her father’s death that she finds herself training a hawk. This book focuses on the ups and downs on MacDonald’s life, all while providing details about hawks. 

The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Car by Steven Parissien was enjoyed by two of our Nevermore readers. One Nevermore member said the book was good but is chalked full of information and history about individuals in the car industry and who did what. He said he is reading is slowly in order to remember everything. He did say that he will make a timeline to help him remember all of the details. The other Nevermore member said it is a delight to read.

Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery, and Skullduggery in the Global Marketplace by Jonathan Mantle was also discussed by the same Nevermore member. He said that the title is true and that there are people in the car world who do not get along with one another. He found the book interesting and liked the history that the author provided along with the insight of everyone’s personalities. A piece of information that was especially interesting is that GM created better aircrafts for the Germans and not for the Americans during WWII. Of course, there were reparations for that after the war. This book is a great match for those who are interested in learning about the history of major car companies and the animosity among them. 

Moving the group from the discussion of vehicles to animals, a Nevermore member stated that she had finished Gregory Berns’ How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain. Berns researches to find out just how dogs do love human beings. In order to conduct that research, Berns had the dogs placed into MRI machines in order to have their brain scanned. Like military dogs are trained, these dogs were trained to remain calm while in the machine, even if the environment wasn’t that comfortable. The Nevermore member stated what makes this book so nice is that the writer is a sensitive person and that the pictures in it are beautiful. She also said that it is a story that left her feeling very happy!

Doll-Baby by Laura Lane McNeal was discussed this week as well as last week. The reviewer stated that it was a feel good story and that she liked it. She also likes that it tells about what living in the 1960’s was like. Another reader stated that the book is comparable to The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 

Last but not least, Michael Fullilove’s Rendezvous With Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took American Into the War and Into the World was discussed. The reader enjoyed this book, even though the title is not exactly the slant of the book. This focuses on the five men that Roosevelt sent on a dangerous mission to Europe in order to place them in the middle of WWII . The Nevermore member said it was beautifully written.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Friday, May 22, 2015

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

Reviewed by Meygan

Daisy loves her life, especially her husband, her dog, and graduate school. Oh, and being cancer free. Developing breast cancer in her early twenties was rough to say the least, but she is elated that she and her husband celebrate an anniversary (referred to as “Cancerversary”) for Daisy being cancer free. Everything seems to be falling into place for Daisy and Jack—so much that they have started discussing the possibility of having children. On the day before her third “Cancerversary”, Daisy goes to the doctor for a checkup. Daisy is beyond devastated to hear that not only has her cancer returned, but it is quickly progressing and spreading throughout her body. The doctors have given Daisy about six months to live—a year if she is lucky. Living in a house that needs to be remodeled, Daisy is constantly adding things to her To-Do List: caulk the windows, fix the floor, etc, etc, etc. As Daisy lies in bed one night next to Jack, she notices that there is yet again another pile of his dirty socks beside the bed. She states that if it weren’t for her, the pile could easily turn in to a mountain. Then that’s when it hits her—what will happen to Jack after she dies? Sure, he is about to graduate and will soon be a veterinarian, but he isn’t the best cook in the world and the house would never be cleaned if it weren’t for Daisy. As much as it pains her to think about Jack moving on after she dies, she knows that Jack must continue to live. So the next item she adds to her To-Do List is to find Jack a new wife, someone who can help lift his spirits whenever Daisy is no longer there to do so.

Let me say that there many moments where I laughed out loud because Daisy is so funny and honest. The characters felt so “alive” that I felt as if I knew them. Shockingly enough, I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would base on the book’s description. Yes, there were sad moments, especially when Daisy keeps reiterating that she will die and those parts were excruciatingly sad However, I thought Oakley did a fine job with making the book enjoyable, especially with such a serious topic. I highly recommend Before I Go and I hope to read more books by Colleen Oakley in the near future! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Monday, May 18, 2015

Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith

Reviewed by Jeanne
Things have changed a great deal since Precious Ramotswe first opened the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, mostly for the better.  She’s now married with two adopted children.  Her former secretary, Grace Makutsi, is also married and a proud new mother. Mma Makutsi is also looking to expand her interests by opening a chic new cafĂ© where she expects all the best people will want to congregate.  She just needs to sign a lease, have some repairs on the building, find a chef, hire wait staff—minor details.  Her husband Phuti has a few misgivings, but realizes there are times when it’s best to just be supportive.

Unfortunately, business has been very slow at both the detective agency and at Tlokweng Speedy Motors, which means some belt-tightening will be on the way.  There’s only one case in the offing, but it’s a strange one:  a woman who claims not to remember who she is or where she’s from.  She doesn’t know where South Africa is but she knows that she take two lumps of sugar in her tea; she doesn’t remember father or mother or husband.  She’s been taken in by two kind people who ask Mma Ramotswe to make discrete inquiries to discover her identity, but Precious feels that there is more to the story than they’re telling.

Long time readers of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency will know that the joy is in the storytelling and in the characters rather than the mystery.  This entry is even more thoughtful than most, centering more on changes and growth in some of the cast.   For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point for those new to the series, but fans will find it very satisfying especially since two characters have some personal revelations that bode well for the future.  McCall Smith has gradually introduced more realistic aspects of modern life into the background--AIDs orphans, for example-- though the books remain warm and ultimately uplifting.  I’ve never had red bush tea, but I’d certainly try a cup so I could have a chat with the wonderful Mma Ramotswe. The books make me laugh, cry, and occasionally reflect, and I close the book feeling that everything will be all right in the world.

I do confess I wonder how his books are viewed in Botswana.  I'm sure the books have provided a boost to tourism.

Friday, May 15, 2015

World War Z by Max Brooks

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nevermore: Midwives, Salt, Still Alice, and much more!

Nevermore opened with the discussion of The Secret of Midwives by Sally Hepworth, a novel which focuses on three generations of midwives. Neva Bradley cannot let anyone know the details of her pregnancy, especially who the child’s father is. Grace, Neva’s mother, cannot let go of the secret. Neva’s grandmother, Floss, finds herself having a feeling of deja vu when she hears of Neva’s situation. Floss holds a deep secret as well—as secret that if ever let out, there will be consequences for all three of the midwives.

Up next was Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer. Jeremiah Prins is 12 years old and living in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The year is 1940. When Holland declares war on Japan in 1941, Jeremiah and his family are moved to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Jeremiah is able to escape and leaves, but only after breaking off a marriage engagement to a girl named Laura. He finds himself living in California, feeling regret and anger about what the war did to him. The Nevermore reader stated that this book was graphic but interesting.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier was described as being a good historical fiction piece. Will Cooper is twelve years old when he is given a house, a key, and a map to journey through the Cherokee’s Nation. Along the way, he meets Bear, and Indian chief, who becomes a father figure to him. He also meets Clare who has captured his heart. This book focuses on a boy’s passion and adventure in search of a home.

Next was Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. In this non-fiction novel, Kurlansky focuses on salt. Yes, that’s right—salt. This book covers the impact salt has had in our civilization. Salt once served as a form of currency, which is where the word “salary” comes from. The Nevermore found the book to be interesting and will next read Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Kurlansky.

In Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, Alice Howard is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. She is also a world-renowned expect in linguistics. As if her life couldn’t be more perfect, she is also married to a successful man, and they have three grown children together. Alice begins to become disoriented, which only increases over time. This causes a change in her relationship with her family and her work. Alice discovers the reason why she has been forgetting small details—she is in the early stage of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The Nevermore reader said the book was good but is a disquieting piece of fiction that centers around the early onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

Barry Glassner’s The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things was described as being interesting non-fiction that explores relative risk vs. absolute rick and how people misinterpret them. The book focuses on special interests, the news, crime, drug usage, and how the government continues to manipulate its people.

Next was Matthew Christopher’s Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Christopher is an architectural photographer who captures photos of abandoned places in America. (Most of the places are located in the north.) He also has a website where you can view additional pictures: Two of our Nevermore readers read this book and enjoyed it!

Faces of Freedom Profiles of America’s Fallen Heroes: Iraq and Afghanistan by Rebecca Pepin (local news broadcaster for WCYB), along with multiple writers, focuses on the fallen American heroes who died at war in Iraq or Afghanistan. This book includes all branches of the military and includes a service member from every US state. The Nevermore reader stated the book contained lots of stories that will affect each person differently. Most of the stories usually brought them to tear.

The Planets by Robert Dinwiddie was also mentioned and was described as being authoritative and up to date with lots of great diagrams and pictures. The book is brand new to the Bristol Public Library and features information gathered by NASA and the European Space Agency. For those who would like a more in-depth view about the solar system, make sure to check out The Planets!

The next book discussed was Paul Abel’s and Brian May’s How to Read the Solar System: A Guide to the Stars and Planets. The Nevermore reader stated that is was a good companion to The Planets, and a quieter and more thoughtful and very British take on our current knowledge of the solar system.

Last, but certainly not least, was Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee: The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged by William Davis. This book focuses on Grant and Lee and the Civil War. This was described as being a good book by a non-academic historical writer about the battle of Richmond.