Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nevermore: Ellsburg, Halbertham, Wolff, Pullman, Vonnegut

Reported by Jeanne
Nevermore opened with Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg.  Ellsberg, who copied and released the Pentagon Papers, was also involved with studying the “fail-safe” system with was supposed to prevent the launch of nuclear weapons without proper authorization.  He was appalled by what he found.  Our reader found the book hard to read because of all the acronyms; a veritable “alphabet soup,” but thought it was also timely.

The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam is another timely book.  Although it was written about the Korean War, our reader said it was like reading today’s papers. Many of the personality types remain the same as does the aims of the North Korean leadership.  The book was described as well researched, with much information about  the various generals involved.  There was so much detail about these men, according to our reader, that the only mystery left was “boxers or briefs.”

Our next reader brought up Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff which describes the ferocious infighting between White House factions of the Trump administration.  Many things in the book had already appeared in the media, but Wolff provides much more detail.  The book ends in October, 2017.  While the book was entertaining, questions about fact checking did arise.

A regional true crime book, May God Have Mercy by John C. Tucker, describes the case against Roger Keith Coleman who was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law in Buchanan County, Virginia.  Coleman was sentenced to death and executed, but maintained his innocence.  His supporters did not give up after his death, but continued to work to try to clear his name.  The book convinced some Nevermore readers that there had been a miscarriage of justice.  (Note:  this book came out in 1997, five years after Coleman’s execution, but before the results of a 2006 DNA test were known.)

Fiction finally came to the fore with Phillip Pullman’s Book of Dust.  The first of a new trilogy, the book is set in the same world as The Golden Compass but it’s described as neither prequel nor sequel, though parts are set before and after the events in His Dark Materials.  Lyra, heroine of the first books, shows up as a baby in Book of Dust.  Eleven year old Malcolm is enchanted by the infant and will try to protect her.  Our reviewer highly recommends the three books of His Dark Materials and thought the new book was a worthy addition.  

Complete Stories by Kurt Vonnegut consists of the author’s shorter work, both published and unpublished at the time of his death.  Our reader had read and enjoyed Vonnegut’s work before and praised this collection.  He compared the stories to fables, and added, “You think you know where the story is going, and then Vonnegut surprises you.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Reviewed by Kristin

Lucy Hull enjoys being a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri.  She’s one of the young ones on staff, and can really relate to the kids.  Lucy particularly enjoys Ian Drake, a ten-year-old with an insatiable appetite for books, even though his mother prefers that he read only those books with “the breath of God” in them.  Lucy and Ian soon become co-conspirators in the search for meaningful and enjoyable literature.

Lucy only wishes to be a little subversive, to allow Ian to explore ideas and the world around him through books.  Even though Lucy has her doubts about Mrs. Drake and her fundamentalist religion, she has no intentions of interfering in Drake family life.  When Lucy finds that Ian has hidden in the library overnight, she gives him a choice: she can call the police or she can take him home.  As she heads toward his house, Ian becomes distressed, and asks Lucy to just drive for a while.

And they keep on driving.

Ian is desperate not to go home, and Lucy indulges him for a while.  She makes a series of choices that lead the two of them from Missouri to Vermont, including a stop in Chicago to stay with her own parents, with Lucy becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fact that in allowing herself to be persuaded by Ian’s unhappiness, she has become a co-conspirator and in fact, a kidnapper.

I read The Borrower as part of my BPL Winter Book Bingo for “Read a Book by or about a Librarian.”  It definitely kept me turning the pages, but it made me extremely uneasy.  Just thinking about being in the situation of wanting to help a child, but also wanting to be a law-abiding non-kidnapping adult citizen, made me very tense.  Lucy felt that Ian was in soul-crushing (if not actual) danger, but once she made the choice to allow Ian into her car, or to cross outside the city limits, or to hit the highway to take Ian to his possibly fictional grandmother, Lucy just kept getting in deeper and deeper, until there was no backing out of the situation.

While this was an extremely compelling read, my own thoughts of what I would do in the same situation kept me nervous throughout the book.  I’d like to think that my law-abiding character would keep me from ever crossing any moral or ethical lines, but I can see why Lucy wanted to help Ian.  I can’t imagine taking a child somewhere without a parent’s consent, but I can feel the soul-wrenching agony that Lucy must have felt.

My verdict:  Well worth reading, but this one may fill you with ‘what ifs’ and keep you reading late into the night.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Everybody’s Baby by Lydia Netzer

Reviewed by Kristin

Jenna and Billy are the quintessential millennial couple.  Jenna owns the Rock Star Yoga studio, offering non-traditional classes such as Sock Hop Yoga, Punk Rock Yoga, and even Shake Yo’ Ass Yoga, pulling in a much different demographic than one might think.  Software developer Billy practically lives on the internet, tweeting and Tumblr-ing every thought that goes through his mind.  They are young, in love, and want to have a baby.

Turns out, having a baby is one of the things that does not come easily to Jenna and Billy.

Jenna and Billy don’t know where to turn.  Fertility treatments could cost as much as $40,000, with no guarantee of a successful pregnancy.  Having already borrowed money from Billy’s parents for a house down-payment, Jenna and Billy turn to another resource: the internet.

Yes, Jenna and Billy plan to have the world’s first Kickstarter baby.  Perks include owning the first ultrasound picture, hosting the gender reveal party, creating the birth plan, rubbing Jenna’s pregnant belly, cutting the cord, naming the baby, and so many more options.  Jenna is hesitant, questioning whether or not she could have strangers, yes, STRANGERS, so involved in her planned conception and motherhood, but Billy believes in the power of crowdsourcing, so they forge ahead.

Fortunately, the baby-namer doesn’t go with Horace and/or Mildred, options which horrify Jenna.  But Billy and Jenna soon find that sharing these milestones with others is harder than it seems.  The Kickstarter absolutely blows up, reaching the funding goal quickly, and gaining the attention of national news outlets.  After all, a Kickstarter baby lets the supporters feel ownership over this potential baby.  As Jenna and Billy gain more publicity, the internet takes sides, and as you know on the internet—everyone has an opinion.

I absolutely love Lydia Netzer’s novels, and this story is available only as an e-novella.  It was a pleasure to read using Tennessee READS.  Reviews of Netzer’s other books can be found here:  How To Tell Toledofrom the Night Sky  and Shine Shine Shine.  Yes, I’ve been a fan for a few years, and will continue to follow this quirky and timely author wherever she leads.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nevermore: Fire and Fury, Ghost of the Innocent Man, Water Will Come, When They Call You a Terrorist, Silence

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started out with a brand new book:  Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.  In Fire and Fury, Wolff details the behind-the-scenes happenings in the White House during Trump’s first nine months.  A riveting account of Trump’s administration, Fire and Fury provides a wealth of information about the, as Wolff calls it, “chaos of the Oval Office.”  Our reader said she found Wolff’s book incredibly interesting; however, she noted she would sometimes have to put it aside.  “I would put it down, because I couldn’t stand another minute…and, next thing I knew, I was reading it again,” she told her fellow readers.  Although she wondered about the accuracy of the facts Wolff put forward in his book, she enjoyed it overall and she highly recommended it.

Next, Nevermore checked out Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin, which detailed the wrongful imprisonment of Willie J. Grimes in 1988.  Grimes, as Rachlin writes, was a “gentle spirit with no records of violence, [he] was shocked and devastated to be convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life imprisonment.”  He spent a quarter of a century attempting to prove his innocence, despite poor handling of evidence and questionable testimonies by witnesses.  Christine Mumma, co-founder of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Comission, spent years helping Grimes prove his innocence and set him free.  Our reader enjoyed the Ghost of the Innocent Man, calling it a fascinating book.  He said it was “amazing what you have to do to prove you’re innocent.”  When asked if the book was discouraging, since it deals with wrongful imprisonment in Grimes’ life and on a national scale, he replied he thought it was more inspiring than anything else.

Continuing in our vein of non-fiction, Nevermore took a look at The Water Will Come:  Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell.  In his book, Goodell discusses global warming and its effects on rising sea levels—and the coastal regions we love.  Using science and first-person accounts, Goodell offers a prediction of what could happen to island nations and coastal regions and huge metropolitan areas, like Manhattan and London and Sydney.  Our reader said she found The Water Will Come to be a pretty interesting and eye-opening book.  “It could have been boring, [given its scientific nature], but it turned out to be very good,” she told Nevermore.  She recommended it to readers most interested in the science behind global warming and the potentially catastrophic results of rising sea levels.

Next, Nevermore looked at When They Call You a Terrorist:  A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Asha Bandele.  When They Call You a Terrorist focuses primarily on Patrisse’s life and her experiences living in Los Angeles—and the barriers, racist sentiments, and blatant discrimination she faced throughout her life; however, she also details how she helped create a powerful political movement.  Our reader thought When They Call You a Terrorist to be a timely and insightful memoir, providing a glimpse into Black Lives Matter and how it is perceived—and envisioned—by its creators.  She said it was necessary reading for anyone interested in race relations and learning more about one of the biggest political movements of the decade.

Last, Nevermore shared Silence:  In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, translated by Becky L. Crook.  Kagge, a Norwegian explorer—lawyer, politician, philosopher, author—wrote Silence:  In the Age of Noise after spending fifty days walking solo across Antarctica.  He was the first person to reach the South Pole alone and, during his journey, he discovered the transformative power of silence.  In his book, Kagge explores the silence around us, the silence within us, and the silence we must create.  Our reader said Kagge’s book was an interesting one, full of inspiration and observations from poets, artists, and explorers of all kinds.  Overall, he enjoyed it and he liked the idea of finding meaning in silence.