National Library Week: and that’s a wrap

Libraries = Strong Communities, Celebrate National Library Week, April 7-13, 2019, American Library Association, ALA Library Champions, Libraries Transform

As National Library Week 2019 wraps up, my mind dwells on the the changing face of the public library in my lifetime.

A community public library is one of the only places in existence where anyone, regardless of background, income level, education, or physical or mental considerations can come. For free. 

The library has always offered warmth, openness, acceptance, and safety. And all of this while helping to increase knowledge, gain education, answer questions, and help with quests. 

I am of the generation who used the paper card catalog, periodical index, and microfiche to write a five page paper, double-spaced on an IBM Selectric typewriter.

Now, we have the internet, electronic books, magazines, and newspapers, all available on our numerous mobile devices. Simply type a few key words into the search bar, and you have a number of sites from which to choose for your information. 

We have truly come a long way.

So, does that make the public library obsolete at worst, and stale at best? 

No way! While it’s true that the library is not the only way to write a term paper these days, it is much more than a depository for books. The library is a meeting place. A place where we tell our stories, listen to others, and support one another through education and understanding. In this way, libraries connect and support communities, strengthen understanding and compassion, and all of this builds a solid foundation for becoming impassioned and active in growing and bettering our communities. 

Join me today in showing support for this vital community resource, and patronize your library.

Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation

Summary:

The latest from legendary master storyteller Stephen King, a riveting, extraordinarily eerie, and moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together—a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences.

My take: 3 looks

Scott Carey and his friend, retired doctor Bob Ellis, are trying to figure out how and why Scott is losing about 2 pounds per day, but looking no different physically. At this rate, Scott determines that he will be weightless by the end of March.

Throw in a gourmet vegan restaurant owned by a married lesbian couple, borderline hate speech and total lack of support from a very conservative Castle Rock, and an upcoming (and very competitive) 12K, and you’ve got yourself an interesting novella. 

This seems to be geared to a YA audience since it lacks the normal King profanity, sex, and out-and-out terror. More along the lines of “The Green Mile”, as opposed to “Gerald’s Game”. At a light 147 pages, I read this in a few hours at a local coffee house. The book has some very good elements for a teen book discussion: alternative lifestyles, tolerance, hate speech, community, sacrifice, and death. That’s a lot to pack into a novella, and only an accomplished author like Stephen King could pull it off.

Recommended.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

The Only Woman in the Room

Summary:

Hedy Kiesler is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, allowing her to evade Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy is also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich’s plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself and flees her husband’s castle.

She lands in Hollywood, where she becomes Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But Hedy is keeping a secret even more shocking than her Jewish heritage: she is a scientist. She has an idea that might help the country and that might ease her guilt for escaping alone — if anyone will listen to her. A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece. 

My take: 3 looks

I had heard about the scientific accomplishments of Hedy Lamarr a few years ago, so when I saw this book on the “New Releases” shelf of my local library, I grabbed it. A fan of historical fiction, I try to keep in mind the nuances and literary license that an author must take to round out the story, or make it compelling to the reader. In this novel, I was interested in the relationship Hedy had with her mother, which was a bit contentious, formal, and cold. Her father was exactly the opposite. As an only child, and very close to my mother, this was a bit heart-wrenching for me. I enjoyed this aspect of the storytelling.

The majority of the novel was taken with her first, and very short, marriage to a wealthy munitions manufacturer during the Nazi invasion of western Europe. Even though it was crucial in setting the stage for the basis of her knowledge of the inner workings of the war, as well as the vulnerabilities of the enemy, I felt that there was a bit too much time devoted to this section, at the expense of the rest. In hindsight, I would have preferred more time devoted to the development process of fluctuating frequency, the experience of trying to sell the idea to the government, and the dichotomy of Lamarr’s beauty and brilliance in the 1940s and 50s Hollywood.

All-in-all, this was an entertaining book, gave a nice foundation of the background on Lamarr, and sets up the reader to be hungry for more research and information on this amazing woman.  

Recommended.

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Image result for winter in paradise

Summary:

Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s. 

My take: 4 looks

The perfect beach read! I found this in the bookcase of the condo in which we were staying, and dove right in. Two days on the beach was all it took to devour this story, and expectantly wait on the next one in the trilogy. 

While it will not change the world, or make you think too hard, “Winter in Paradise” is an escape that will pull you from where ever you may be into the newly upside-down world of the Steele family, the Small family, and their surrounding friends. Aware almost immediately of what I would call shenanigans surrounding the death of two men and a woman, the families are too far in grief to ask the hard questions, and too gobsmacked by the situation in which they find themselves – extending their families. Once the initial shock starts to settle, you are primed and ready for book 2.

Do yourself and pick this one up. It is the perfect book to take on holiday, or if you need a “palette cleanser”. Recommended. 

 

Slade House by David Mitchell

Image result for slade house david mitchell

Summary:

Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents — an odd brother and sister — extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late…

My take: 5 looks and a WOWZA!

I LOVE this kind of story! It sucked me in right from the beginning, kept me turning pages, then made me want more, more, more. This is the first time I have read a work by this author, although I have a few more on my TBR. After this, I will move them up on the list.

The characters of numerous, but don’t get too invested in them. Any more would be a spoiler, and I don’t want that. Suffice it to say that there are some very odd happenings at Slade House, and you should definitely steer clear of that area every nine years.

Enjoy!!

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Summary:Image result for a piece of the world

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

My take: 4 looks

I have long loved the painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, now hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. When I saw this book, I knew I had to add it to my TBR. 

Kline’s writing is so easy to read. Like “Orphan Train”, this story flowers like a bulb in spring, and the characters are fleshed out and become real to the reader. The players in this novel, based on actual people, were no different. As Christina ages between the pages, I fully felt her change from a hopeful adolescent, to a young lady wooed by a suitor, to a woman resigned to live the life that had been handed to her. All of those emotions were fully expressed in Kline’s words.  

Another intriguing part of the novel was the relationships of Christina Olson, from her mother and father, stalwart brother Al, sweet friendship with Betsy, and finally, the painter who would make her famous. All were unique and interesting, played out in very real ways, with very real emotions and feelings evoked by the writer.

This book did not disappoint, and leaves me wanting to read more by this author. Highly recommended.

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

When the Lights Go Out

Summary:

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

My take: 2.5 looks

Eden and Jessie tell their tales, twenty years apart. Two women, desperate in very different ways, but with love at the core of their issues. As we learn more and more about these women, and how they are ultimately related, the reader is slowly taken into a vortex of memories, desires, dreams, and perhaps even hallucinations.

While this book was easy to read, and simple to get through, it was not compelling. I didn’t have an investment in the characters, or what happened to them. I found Eden’s story drawn out toward an end that was extremely predictable and a bit prosaic, and Jessie’s story completely non plausible and hard to believe. Even in light of the end, with the situations becoming clear and characters taking their rightful places, I found it a ho-hum ending, and not the jaw-dropper that the author intended.

Not recommended.