We’re hosting a new permanent event at the library. The last Wednesday of every month at 6:30 will be the book discussion group. We’re going to be reading a wide variety of books, and we’re always looking for new book ideas. The first book we’ll be reading is Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. The book for next month will be Killer Angels by Jeff Shaara. Copies are available at the library for those with library cards.
The Martian by Andy Weir
In The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is abandoned by his crew and left for dead. He shouldn’t have survived the freak accident that appeared to kill him, and when he realizes it didn’t, he knows that his chances for long term survival are bleak. Despite having enough food to last a year, being the only inhabitant of Mars’s red desert presents numerous challenges to the unwilling Earthling immigrant. Nobody knows he’s there, and even if they did, it would take years to get a rescue ship to him.
The story is mostly told through Watney’s space log where we get an appreciation of his ingenuity and self-deprecating humor. The book brilliantly demonstrates humanity’s instinct to persevere in the face of impossible odds. Watney uses his engineering skills to continuously find ways to extend his lifespan, and his observational wit to keep him sane as Mars’s loneliest resident.
The book does a great job of mixing the tension of a sci-fi thriller with a constant stream of one-liners from Watncy. His ability to keep his sense of humor despite leap frogging from one life threatening emergency to the next makes him easy to identify with and pull for.
The Martian is a page turner, and one of the funniest science fiction books ever written. It’s a must read for all sci-fi fans, and also fans of survival stories and thrillers. It’s being made into a movie starring Matt Damon.
On Tuesday, August 4, renowned Sherlock Holmes expert, Regina Stinson, will be giving a presentation on the enduring popularity of the Baker Street detective. She’ll discuss his origins, his power of observation, and why he’s a timeless figure in popular culture. The library will celebrate this hero of scientific thinking by showing Holmes movies and shows throughout the day and by serving English tea and biscuits (cookies).
*Excerpt from Jeffersonian*
Nearly 130 years after his creation by author Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes remains a popular subject of books, films and television shows. He seems so real that many people actually send letters to his fictional 221B Baker Street Address. Stinson notes, “Holmes still fascinates us.” He sets the standard for all fictional detectives who have followed him, and his methods of observation and deduction are studied by real police forces around the globe. Stinson will tell us why we find him so compelling, and illuminate how he has influenced the art of crime detection.
The library’s new website is now live!! Please explore it use it, and feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions. It is still a work in progress, but our former website was due for an update. All of the most important functionality such as accessing the catalog, ebooks, and MeLCat are easily accessible.
Gone Girl Book Review
As soon as I saw that my favorite director, David Fincher, was making a movie from the book, “Gone Girl” from Gillian Flynn, I knew I had to read it. Fincher doesn’t choose bad books to turn into screenplays. He has a reputation for taking the darkest most compelling Best Sellers and turning them into cult classic movies.
The ominous tone is set early as Nick comes home to a wide open door, broken glass, and a missing wife, the titular Gone Girl. Flynn seamlessly employs a chronologically disjointed narrative alternating between the diary of the missing Amy leading up to her disappearance, and the thoughts of the suspiciously calm Nick.
As her journal entries approach the present day, we can’t help but try to piece together the mystery through the tantalizing clues left in her diary, and wonder how the couple’s love turned from bliss to bitterness. We wonder if we can trust the husband, whom we’ve come to know through his first person narration. We’re in his head. It couldn’t be him we tell ourselves, but all the signs point to him, and there are disturbing gaps in his memories and an endless string of lies he tells the police, and who keeps calling him? What about the ever raging Mississippi River? Surely it has a role to play in this mystery, running endlessly through the story, constantly reminding the reader of its presence, and of the post-industrial malaise that hangs over the rust belt, and sets the tone for this dark psychological thriller.
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
The following review for “The Truth About Alice” deals with mature themes and uses strong language.
So basically this story is about a girl named Alice Franklin who is a “slut” because she slept with two different guys at the same party. It is also well known that she killed Brandon, the star quarterback, because she was sexting him while he was driving and he died in a car accident.
This story is written from four different points of view and then lastly Alice’s. Elaine, the popular girl. Josh, the average jock. Kurt, the nerd that nobody likes. And Kelsey, who is Alice Franklin’s ex best friend. All of these people (except Kurt) helped some way in Alice’s downfall.
This was a great story to read, although it had many clichés, and it was kind of predictable, the characters and their stories made the book pretty great. It definitely will tear you apart seeing how teenagers (or really anyone) can be so selfish that they would spread rumors to make themselves more popular. I’m looking forward to future books by Jennifer Mathieu.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
4/5 Very Good!
Teen fiction has become less and less awesome as the years progress, with vampires, werewolves, and more dystopias than anyone cares to read. That all tends to get really old really fast. Enter Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This modern fairy-tale remake keeps some of the old classic story (Cinder being a social outcast due to her metal bits; she lives with an evil stepmother and an evil step-sibling; she loses a “shoe,” etc.) while new stuff happens. Even the new parts of the story aren’t entirely new, like the plague that ravages the city and kills the emperor, or the conspiracies of a princess everyone assumes is dead (think Russian revolution).
Aside from the classical fiction aspects and the semi-historical facets, the characterization is a large part of what makes this book so enjoyable to read. Cinder is not a princess. She’s a mechanic, meaning she doesn’t really care what people think and she is often covered in oil or something equally un-girly. She refuses to admit to having any feeling for the handsome Prince Kaito, whom she meets when he asks her to repair his android. She does have feelings, for her sister, her android friend Iko, and she acts on these feelings, the way teenage girls do. Cinder is as real as any human in her story or teen girl reading it.
There are some downsides to this delightful sci-fi fairy tale. First off, it drags. At times, the pace is too slow. The descriptions are decent, but sometimes, they’re too much, especially for the plague, which could make the average reader gag and give up, fearing more grossness. Finally, the biggest issue is that the most important plot probably isn’t going to surprise anyone.
Despite these shortcomings, Cinder redeems itself with interesting action and, throughout the rest of the series, a very well-developed plot and lots of fun characters with their own backstories and personality quirks. It’s definitely worth reading the rest of the series, because this is a dystopian fairy tale like nothing ever seen before.
Fargo, the series, is a celebration of the sublimity of the simple life. The one thing the two Fargos have in common above all else is a profound appreciation of kindness and decency. That might seem like a contradiction considering the franchise is known for harsh, striking Minnesota landscapes, cold brutal violence, and subtle dark humor, but that bleak backdrop provides us with the contrast necessary to bear witness to the divine glow of idyllic Americana.
Fargo depicts a world in which people who turn to the dark side can always find themselves on thin ice. Those who are simple and good don’t have it easy, but they have a chance to find truth and beauty in the small joys of life. It doesn’t give us the good versus evil of Tolkien or Star Wars, but gives us an appreciation of the seemingly mundane aspects of our life, and offers the perspective that contentment will always be covetousness in the long run.
Book Review of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. 5/5
Some books take more effort than others to read. Sapiens is one of those books, and considering the ambitious goal of the author to summarize the entire history of mankind in a single 400 page book, a certain level of density must be accepted. For those of us unafraid to challenge ourselves with our reading selections, the bird’s eye view of humanity offered by Sapiens is an opportunity to fundamentally change our perspectives, our ideas of ourselves, and our ideas about the human race to which we belong.
This is a rare book that takes non-fiction to the level of art. Along with non-fiction classics like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Sapiens has the power to enlighten us by illuminating unseen forces that are at work every day shaping us culturally and biologically. What truly makes it brilliant though is its ability to inspire awe at the long journey the human race has been on, and to make us delightfully aware that we’re currently holding the baton of this timeless relay race with an unknown destination.
Harari takes us from a pre-historical time where Homo sapiens competed with Neanderthals and other early humans for dominance to the emergence of the agricultural revolution which led to the evolution of money. From there, cities could begin to take shape. Governments and religions grew in power and influence. Technological advances started to change the landscape and change the way we interacted with each other. As technology grew exponentially, humans found themselves in a strange land that didn’t conform to our biological instincts and tendencies. He leaves us not with an answer, but with a startling question. Will the world that we shaped with our technology force us to evolve into something that can no longer be considered human?