What we’re reading now….

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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This is a story about isolation and resilience. Kya, also known as the Marsh Girl, was abandoned by her family in the marsh lands of North Carolina. Alongside the story of her survival in the marsh as a child, an alternate timeline of a murder is unwound throughout the story. The writing is lyrical and descriptive which drags you deep into the marshes of North Carolina. The book is both heartbreaking and triumphant. Beth

The Complete Poems of A.R. Ammons  by A.R. Ammons

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American poet A.R. Ammons taught creative writing for years at Cornell, and recently a two-volume collection was published. I’m working my way through the first volume and hope to read the second as well. His poetry is a very intense exploration of the relationship between the natural world and the metaphysical. His voice is charming and unforgettable, and he is able to be funny and profound at the same time. Ammons grew up in rural North Carolina, and some of his most affecting poems (for me) are about his memories as a child, taking care of the animals on his family’s farm. A good, slow, enjoyable and worthwhile read. Andrew

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg

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In Palaces for the People, Klinenberg makes the argument that social infrastructure is fundamental to both the physical and social health of a community. In using the phrase “social infrastructure,” Klinenberg is referencing community places that cause human contact and social connections to form, including libraries, places of worship, parks, and schools. The connections made at these locations create social safety nets and allow for exposure to others; this imparts tolerance and understanding in a society often becoming more divisive. An interesting read; the frequent mentions of how libraries are valuable resources for communities may have influenced my appreciation and enjoyment. Trent


The Familiars by Stacy Hall

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This is a fictionalized account of the real life Pendle Hill Witch Trials. It’s 1612, Lancashire, England and young noblewoman Fleetwood Shuttleworth has yet to bear a child after four years of marriage. Each of her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage and the doctor has made a dire prediction-Fleetwood will not survive another pregnancy. And yet, she once again finds herself with child. When she meets Alice Grey, she begins to believe that both she and her baby might survive. Fleetwood places all her trust in her new midwife, who prescribes various herbs to treat Fleetwood’s ailments. While her health improves and her pregnancy progresses Alice finds herself being accused of witchcraft. Can Fleetwood save the only woman who can save her? Megan


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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Kindred was pushed up in my reading priorities in February, but as is often the case I don’t usually read books based on monthly themes. I am now part way through listening to it being read by Kim Staunton on my commutes. It has some similarities to the Outlander series, but this book was written 12 years earlier in 1979. Dana is a black woman living in the 1970s who is mysteriously pulled back in time to the early 1800s. The book is a bit more fast paced with back and forth time travelling. Dana must learn to survive living on a plantation in the slave state of Maryland where she has no rights. She meets a couple of her ancestors and learns about her surprising black and white family tree. She experiences physical trauma similar to the women of several generations past. There isn’t really a science fiction device for the time travelling, so it is more fantasy based. Sometimes time travel stories can be full of loopholes and anachronisms, but Butler has very carefully constructed the plot based on history that the hero Dana cannot so easily change for the better. Byron


American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Thornton

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This is the story of Alice, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Alice is just 18 years old when McKinley is assassinated and her father becomes president. Rebellious Alice is in constant conflict with her father and stepmother. She soon marries Congressman Nick Longworth and must deal with his infidelity and heavy drinking. Alice gives birth to Paulina, who is believed to be the daughter of Senator William Borah. When Paulina dies young, Alice raises her granddaughter. This is an epic story of a strong independent woman way ahead of her time. Emma


Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

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George Washington Black, Wash as we come to know him, is a ten year old slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados in the mid 1800s. When the eccentric brother, Titch, of the exceedingly cruel master, Eramus, comes to stay, Wash is taken under the wing of Titch. Wash is both confused and terrified by such an unlikely kindness extended to him. Titch is a scientist, inventor, explorer and abolitionist. Wash is swept up in the life of such a diversified, yet strange young man. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption. The author deftly talks about slavery, racism and identity. It reads like both historical fiction and adventure. Have patience with this novel, at times, it seems disconnected, but well worth it. Mary

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

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Nine people join at a remote health resort in Australia for different reasons. Some are hoping to lose weight, some are getting over broken hearts, and others have heard it is just the most amazing experience ever. As each of them are cut off from the outside world and required to follow a rigid, individualized schedule prepared for them by the spa’s extremely eccentric owner/director, they begin to wonder what they have gotten themselves into. Should they stay and experience the promised life-changing experience, or should they run while (and if) they still can? Not as good as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies in my opinion, but still a good read with some interesting twists and turns. Sara

When I Spoke in Tongues by Jessica Wilbanks

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This memoir is about a woman who grew up in a very religious yet impoverished rural Virginia community and becomes an atheist. As I read it, I could not help but think of Tara Westover’s Educated. Even though there were many similarities in their stories, When I Spoke In Tongues dealt mostly with the complicated, painful process of leaving one’s faith. The most interesting aspect of the author’s journey away from faith was the way her relationships with family members changed. Jessica Wilbanks holds an MFA in creative non-fiction, and the writing in this book is haunting and beautiful. This book would be important for anyone who decides to depart from the faith tradition they grew up with, as well as anyone who wants to know more about Pentecostalism as a movement. Lyndsey

Waterworks by E.L. Doctorow

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I went back a few years and revisited a 1994 E.L. Doctorow novel, The Waterworks, because it was recommended. Set in post-Civil War New York, the book is narrated by a world-weary newspaperman, McIlvaine, whose freelance writer, Martin Pemberton, has disappeared. Pemberton, smart, rebellious, and scion of the wealthy and recently deceased Augustus Pemberton, had confided to McIlvaine that, though his father had died, he believed he recently saw him passing by in a carriage. McIlvaine enlists the help of Donne, a rare honest police officer during the Boss Tweed era, and the two search for Martin, discovering his half-dead body in a facility where the genius Dr. Sartorious is trying to defeat mortality. Doctorow starts off well, lyrically capturing New York and its inhabitants, the poverty, wealth, power and industry, but eventually the plot becomes too gothic and the characters stereotypically good or evil. Maybe this isn’t one of his best? Dori

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The God’s Eye View by Barry Eisler

gods eye view

THE GOD’S EYE VIEW
by Barry Eisler

Edward Snowden damaged the National Security Administration. Now, years later, current NSA Director General Ted Anders was not going to let that happen again. To do so, after all, would prevent him from keeping America safe; the good of the many v. the good of the few thing, right?

Evelyn Gallagher was a dedicated NSA analyst and computer genius. She had developed software that could track nearly all security camera systems in the world and, even more remarkably, identify people using biometric data. When she identified a senior NSA staffer meeting with a journalist known for his work exposing government excesses, it raised a red flag. But when one of those men was dead and the second kidnapped by jihadists and left for dead within hours after reporting her findings to General Anders, Evie started piecing things together, not only about this incident, but others that preceded it. She is immediately torn between her suspicions and the need for her job, not only because of its importance, but because she is the sole provider for her little boy.

The God’s Eye View is incredibly entertaining, a thriller that travels the world and encounters some of the most dangerous, distasteful people in its darkest corners. Nothing about author Barry Eisler’s writing or storytelling will keep readers wanting. The book is well balanced between a compelling plot, character development, sex, love, and violence.

Unique to many books in the genre, Mr. Eisler does a great job with character development. Our hero, Evelyn Gallagher and her son; the power hungry and increasingly delusional General Anders; the NSA muscle, Thomas Delgado and Marvin Manus; even General Ander’s assistant, General Mike Remar. None are treated as secondary in their role in the book, and they’re developed enough that I had felt a connection with each of them, although some more pleasant than others!

But the book is more than just a thriller. It is a statement about the degradation of privacy and liberty in America and the world and about the dangers that have resulted and will continue to. About the paranoia that often comes with power. And about how complacently most Americans have allowed it to happen, even want it to happen, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their day to day lives.

“I implement what the people want, even if they don’t have the integrity and self-awareness to admit they want it. And I have no patience for anyone who enjoys meat but moans about slaughterhouses, who wears cheap clothes but deplores sweatshops, who weeps about climate change from behind the wheel of an SUV or from the window seat of an airplane.”

Of course, General Ander’s quote above is in defense of the drastic measures he takes to protect America and to keep America’s secrets. But that argument isn’t foreign to many Americans or our politicians. Ironically, as The God’s Eye View points out, the threat to America sometimes needs protected from comes from the people making that very argument. And when finally confronted, General Remar’s response: “He sighed. ‘Let’s not be naive. We’re not subverting democracy; democracy was subverted a long time ago…It’s NSA management or corporate management. And believe me, you don’t want the corporations running the show all by themselves. We’re not exactly Thomas Jefferson, okay, that ship has sailed, but we’re not complete slaves of mammon, either.'”

While the story told in The God’s Eye View is fiction, there are references to current events, news stories, conspiracy theories, and the methods used to control the media over the last decade and a half. Mr. Eisler goes one step further, provided readers with a list of sources at the end of the book that include news articles, scholarly works, and other links.

Whether you read The God’s Eye View for the great story, dynamic characters, thrills, or the deeper statement it makes, I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to remove mobile phone batteries, cover web cameras when not in use, and debate whether it’s better to send files unencrypted hoping they won’t be noticed versus encrypting but drawing attention to them!

George Lichman
Originally published on TheThirtyYearItch.com 2/2/16

Lastest Additions

Oh, what a difference a year makes! Last year at this time we where digging out of a late fall blizzard and bracing ourselves for more snow and record cold. It was weather that demanded we hunker down and read. A year later it’s nothing but clear skies and temperatures in the 60’s. It’s perfect weather for an outdoor project or a walk on the beach. I managed to squeeze both of those into my day yesterday; an audiobook and my dog my constant companions. My amazing and handy brother built me a bench from our grandmother’s old bed frame. Look at all that sun! Note the T-shirt! Later, Kevin (the dog) and I explored a new stretch of beach down at Edgewater and discovered this unusual structure. All the while, I was riveted by Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith. This third book in the Cormoran Strike series is definitely my favorite. One of my awesome colleagues already entered this title into the Reading Room.

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Whether you are looking to hunker down and read or trying to soak up every last bit of warmth and sunshine, the Reading Room will help you find the perfect book. Check out some of these Latest Additions or explore the extensive back list of titles.

career of evil

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith.

furiously

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson.

ana

Ana of California by Andi Teran.

this is your life

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison.

And finally, here is a sneak peek at a book coming in 2016:

salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, February 2, 2016 (put yourself on hold now!)

Happy Reading!

~Megan

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay -Book Review!

Bookworm's World: You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #55

After losing his job, reporter David Harwood is back home living with his parents and 9 year-old son in the small college town of Promise Falls, NY–a town that has seen better days. The daily paper has folded, there’s been women attacked on campus, strange animal mutilations, and the local amusement park isn’t reopening.

When David goes to visit his cousin Marla, he is shocked to see her with a baby she claims was given to her by an angel. Her own child died at birth, so where did this one come from?

Linwood Barclay is a master at making everyday actions seem sinister and threatening. And, since “Broken Promise” is the first of a planned trilogy, he leaves lots of loose ends.

-by Evelyn Janoch

Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn -Book Review!

... Chet and Bernie Mystery Series) by Spencer Quinn – free [PDF] [EPUBWhen private investigator Bernie Little and his partner Chet return home from their trip to Washington, D.C., they find a hole in the wall where Bernie’s safe used to be. And, Chet’s nose tells him his best friend Iggy, the dog next door, has been in the house. Then Mr. Parson, Iggy’s owner is in trouble for having a stolen Saguaro cactus planted in his front yard. To top things off, the ranger investigating the stolen cactus has a puppy that looks just like a Chet mini-me!

In Scents and Sensibility, the seventh adventure for Chet and Bernie, Chet’s point of view is spot on, and, despite his doggie ramblings, he is Bernie’s partner first and foremost. How could you not love Chet?

-by Evelyn Janoch