Conversations with Lincoln

I listen to a lot of audiobooks in the car. Sometimes when I am looking for a new audiobook to listen to, I look for something that is short. If you have ever listened to a 20 disc audiobook, you understand. As much as I love audiobooks, sometimes I need something short and  something different; something to cleanse my palate (or my ears).

While I was browsing the shelves, I noticed, Conversations with Lincoln and I am happy that I checked it out. One nice feature of this audiobook is listed in the title. They are stories. I did not have to pay a lot of attention to the book in order to keep up with the story because the story would end and another story would start! I also liked that this was nonfiction so I was learning something while I drove my car.

The conversations that people had with Abraham Lincoln took place while he lived in New Salem, Illinois, Springfield, Illinois and while he was President in Washington, D.C.  Over and over again people talk about how kind Lincoln was to people. He was especially fond of children. One tale speaks of his time in Illinois and how he allowed the neighborhood boys to go fishing with him. They all had such a good time that no boy would dare miss another fishing trip. Many of the stories that occurred while Lincoln was President involved women asking for their fathers, husbands and sons to be released from duty from the Army or transferred somewhere else. One such woman lost her husband in the war and asked President Lincoln if one of her son’s could be released from duty so that he could come home and take care of her and her farm. Another woman asked for her father’s life after he was sentenced to be executed. President Lincoln had a difficult time executing young boys that deserted from the Army. Many of them were too young to serve in the first place. Of course the Army disapproved of his leniency and claimed that he undermined their authority.

While I was listening to this audiobook, I kept marveling over the fact that people were actually allowed to have conversations with the President of the United States. If you were willing to wait a few hours, it was possible that President Lincoln would invite you into his office to tell him your trouble. As you were waiting, you could be sitting next to a U.S. Senator or an Army General who were also waiting their turn. They would have had preference over you, but an ordinary person had the chance to speak to the President. The theme of this book is how kind Abraham Lincoln was. He genuinely cared about people’s troubles and he did his best to fix the problem. If he was unable to fix the problem himself, then he would refer the person to someone who could do something about it, with a note bearing his signature. He had a soft spot for children and always made a point to speak to them while they were in his presence. And he tried to do his best to reunite women with the men in their lives. Clearly, he hated that the war was destroying families. While listening to this book, it was hard to not wish an audience with Abraham Lincoln in order to speak with this intelligent and overly kind man.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove, to put it kindly, is a curmudgeon. All of his neighbors are ninnies and no one knows how to do things properly. He has had a long-running feud with his former best friend and next-door neighbor Rune over a disagreement (fight) that ended with Ove being forced to step down (coup d’etat) as chairman of the Residents Association. He follows a rigid routine through his day, inspecting the neighborhood for trash, bicycles parked illegally and rule-breakers, all the while muttering about the people who drive BMWs (instead of Saabs) and nobody knowing how to bleed a radiator anymore.

That routine is severely disrupted when new neighbors move in and back their trailer into his mailbox (honestly, doesn’t anyone know how to back a trailer properly?). Ove has important business planned for that day, but now he must show the new neighbor (Lanky One) and his wife (Pregnant One) the correct way to do things and his plans are ruined. Every day he attempts to finish his plan, but time and again something comes up and interrupts him, mostly because of other people’s incompetence. No one seems to know how to repair a bicycle, or open a stuck window, or how to drive a stick shift car (Ove despairs for the future of mankind) His new neighbors persist in being his friends and, although he does all in his curmudgeon-y power to discourage them, he attracts a circle of friends and loyal supporters. And a scruffy street cat.

At first I didn’t like Ove. At all. But as the story unfolds and we learn more about Ove and his life it is easier to empathize with him. Life has sent Ove some tough blows and gradually it becomes evident that his grumpiness protects a kind and caring person. Also, most of Ove’s rants are quite funny (Ove wonders why a tattooed man let someone “doodle on him”) and his opinions are often spot-on. He may occasionally use politically incorrect terms (to everyone’s consternation) but he is fair to all and will fight any injustice against you, large or small.

A Man Called Ove is a charming, funny (more than one person asked me what I was reading because I couldn’t help laughing out loud), heartfelt book about looking past the surface and giving people a chance. Highly recommended.

 

In the Unlikely Event

In The Unlikely Event is by the author, Judy Blume. Yes, that Judy Blume that wrote, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Freckle Juice.  But this time, Blume wrote a book that is for adults.

The year is 1952 and the place is Elizabeth, New Jersey. The reader is introduced to several members of the community throughout the book. Sometimes, it could be hard for me to remember which character was which; I would have to read a couple of paragraphs to remember. From what I have read in online book reviews, I am not the only person that has had this difficulty. There were times while I was reading the book that I wished that Blume had not included so many different characters. However, by the end of the book, the character’s stories did come together and it did make sense. Still, I wish she would have cut out a few of them.

Nevertheless, I do not want to deter you from reading this book! It is a wonderful story otherwise I would not write about it. Our main character is fifteen year-old Miri. She lives with her single mother, Rusty. They live in house that has been split into two apartments. Miri’s grandmother, Irene lives on the first floor while Rusty and Miri live on the second floor. Miri also has an Uncle Henry that acts like a father toward her. Miri does not know who her father is and when she asks her family about it, they will not tell her anything and she has given up on learning anything about him. Miri’s closest friend is Natalie and she spends a lot of time at Natalie’s house so we get to know that family quite well. Miri also has a boyfriend, Mason. There are quite a few other characters that all make sense when you read the novel. Judy Blume did a wonderful job with intertwining the characters so that they all have a connection with someone that can be connected back to Miri.

The story is based off real life events. Judy Blume lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s. During that time, there were three plane crashes in Elizabeth. The first plane crash was December 16, 1951. The second crash was January 22, 1952 and the third crash was February 11, 1952. Blume has done an excellent job recreating the scene. Residents are on edge. Children are frightened, teenagers are coming up with conspiracy theories as to what is going on. People are anxious. Elizabeth is being called, “plane crash city”. Residents have died or been injured in the crash. Natalie’s father, a dentist, has had to identify bodies with their dental records. A girl that Miri used to babysit died when the second plane crashed in the neighborhood and their building caught on fire. Her sister was severely burned. Miri’s boyfriend helped rescue people from the third plane crash. Other characters volunteered with the Red Cross. The residents of Elizabeth want Newark airport to be shut down. And it is temporarily and reopens in November, 1952. After that, flight patterns were rerouted so that they did not fly over Elizabeth.

Even with the terror of the planes falling from the sky, this book was fun to read. Blume is able to paint a vivid picture and I felt transported back to the 1950s. There are moments, such as when Miri gets an “Elizabeth Taylor haircut” that are sweet and reminded me of being fifteen years old. Or when Miri and Mason are dancing for the first time in Natalie’s basement. Or the conversations that Miri has with her girlfriends. The characters in the book continue to live their lives, even though they do not know if and when a plane will crash again. Blume has an amazing ability to create characters that are so relatable; you feel that her characters are your friends and family.

The book is named In the Unlikely Event after the instructional speech that flight attendants give before a plane takes off. “In the unlikely event of a plane crash…”  You can find it in print, large print and audiobook

 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley deals with tragedy and its aftermath. On a warm, foggy summer night, eleven people board a private jet heading from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean, breaking apart. Two people survive: Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter who was invited to fly by the wife of a wealthy media mogul, and a four-year-old boy J.J., the media mogul’s son. Scott swims in freezing cold water to save himself and the boy, his only thoughts on their survival.

Scott is hailed as a hero, but mysteries surround his background and news stations can’t find much information about him. The bodies of the other people on the flight are still missing as news reporters struggle to get the real story and government and investigative officials work to recover the plane’s wreckage. Family, media, money, and conspiracy drama galore rampage through this book, leaving readers on the edge of their seats wondering what really happened and wondering what people’s real motives are.

This book alternates between the present and past, highlighting each person who was on the plane, from the security detail to the pilots, the flight attendant, the media mogul, his wife, and young daughter, as well as a money launderer and his wife. As each character’s introduction and background story are revealed, a web of intrigue, lies, deception, and mystery comes to light. A conspiracy seems to unravel, only fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and the way the media has sensationalized this catastrophe. Everyone is drawing their own false conclusions with what really happened on the plane remaining a mystery as the book goes on.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it. I stayed up way past my bedtime and woke up very early on the weekend to finish it, which is something I only ever do if a book has really captured my interest. The narrator had me hooked by adding in voice inflections and nuances that brought eash character to life. Add in a captivating story and a mystery I didn’t figure out until the very end and I was fully drawn into the world Hawley created from the very beginning.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge Mid-Month Check

How is your Holiday reading going this month? Have you found time amid the hustle and bustle to enjoy a good book? Admittedly, it can be pretty hard in December, but remember, many of the best Holiday stories are quick, light reads, or children’s books with beautiful illustrations. And they almost always help get you in the holiday spirit!

Need some suggestions? Here are some new books that have just arrived in the past couple of weeks.

The Angel of Forest Hill by Cindy Woodsmall (NEW Romance) An Amish romance set in West Virginia, Rose comes to help Joel Dienner and his family after the death of the Joel’s wife and the mother of his three children. How Rose and Joel navigate a new relationship forged by need and come to love each other, against the backdrop of a snowy Christmas makes for a charming and gentel read.

A Shoe Addict’s Christmas by Beth Harbison (NEW Fiction) Accidentally locked into the department store she works at after it closes on Christmas Eve, Noelle is visited by a woman who claims to be her guardian angel. It’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” only with shoes and shopping!

The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James (NEW Mystery) Here are four of P.D. James’ best short stories, originally commissioned to run in newspapers or magazines during the holidays. Just like her books, these stories are cunning and full of sly humor and two of them feature her most famous detective Adam Dalgliesh. A must read for any mystery fan.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt (NEW Mystery) When a simple dispute with a neighbor turns into a murder investigation, defense lawyer Andy Carpenter suddenly has his hands full and may be facing a dangerous killer. Puppies and Christmas and murder! What more could you want? (Well, not the murder part, please!)

Keep reading (it might be the only thing keeping me sane some days!) and Happy Holiday!

 

 

Jughead: Volume One

I love Archie comics. Every time I went to the grocery store with my mom, I begged for the newest Archie comic and would begin reading it as soon as I got in the car. Archie was my first graphic novel crush and the whole gang at Riverdale High did things that I expected to do in high school. (When I reached high school and it wasn’t anything like Riverdale, I was more than a little disappointed.)

When I realized that Jughead was going to be given his very own comic, I was ecstatic and knew I had to read it. Jughead: Volume 1 gives Jughead the attention he always deserved in the classic Archie comics. Zdarsky and Henderson expand upon the current Archie volume to give Jughead his own up-to-date background.

In Jughead: Volume One, we meet Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, aka Jughead. He plays videogames, tries to keep Archie out of trouble, skates by in school by just following the rules, and spends his afternoons at Pop’s diner inhaling burgers and milkshakes. Everything is happening like normal until Riverdale High gets a new principal. This new principal institutes new changes on all levels: in the classrooms, in athletics, and, most concerning to Jughead, in the cafeteria. Once he gets rid of all the good food in the cafeteria, Jughead loses his cool and seeks vengeance. This graphic novel is full of gags and antics by Jughead and his friends as they try to oust the new conniving principal from his current position and, in the end, discover his dastardly plot to take over the school for nefarious reasons! This graphic novel had me laughing throughout and was a fantastic trip down memory lane to the classic Archie comics.

New Reading Challenge in 2017!

challenge-logo-2017Hello Fellow Readers!

2016 is almost over which means it’s time to start thinking about our next Reading Challenge. In 2017 we’re going to travel the world! Don’t worry about buying plane tickets or packing a bag though, we’re going to explore the globe through the magic of books!

Just like last year, the Reading Challenge is very low-pressure with an emphasis on discovering books and authors you may not have tried yet. You can participate every month, or only the months that interest you. Remember – there are no Library Police that will come knocking on your door if you fail to finish a book each month! Read for fun, for discovery, to learn something new – kind of like travel which opens your eyes to cultures and sights beyond your own backyard.

Unlike last year, we’re going to include non-fiction (great for history buffs), movies and music as part of a well-rounded experience. You can read a book or listen to it on audio, watch a movie or delve into the music of the culture or any combination of these. All without leaving your home! (Well, you might want to plan a trip to the library to pick up your books and movies!)

There will be new bookmarks available at the library beginning in January and we hope to have some free printables for you over the course of the year – more bookmarks, a reading journal, inspirational quotes, etc. Watch the blog for updates.

Here’s the lineup for 2017:

January – Rome

February – Seattle

March – Japan

April – Paris

May – Kenya

June – San Francisco

July – Alaska

August – Texas/American Southwest

September – London

October – China

November – St Petersburg/Leningrad

December – New York City

Looks like fun, doesn’t it? So grab your passport (um, library card!) and join us in 2017!

 

New York Times Best Books of 2016

Are you looking for something to read? Stuck in a rut and looking for something new? The New York Times recently released their 10 Best Books of 2016. Perhaps you will find a new author or a new genre that you love. Have you read all ten of The New York Times best books? Would you recommend any of the books on this list?  Let us know in the comments!

FICTION

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the 2016 National Book Award. Cora is a young slave living at a cotton plantation in Georgia. She is an outcast among her fellow slaves. A new slave arrives, named Caesar, and he tells Cora about the Underground Railroad. They decide to risk it all and take the terrifying journey North. After killing a white boy that tried to capture them, Cora and Caesar are being hunted.  “The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.” – from the Hardcover Edition.

 

 

small-bombsThe Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

Finalist for the National Book Award. Mansoor Ahmed witnesses two of his friends die in a marketplace explosion from a “small bomb”. He becomes involved with a charismatic young activist whose ideas are always changing.

 

 

 

north-waterThe North Water by Ian McGuire

A nineteenth century whaling ship, The Volunteer,  is in the Artic Ocean. Aboard is a killer and a violent confrontation awaits those on board. This book will appeal to those that like thrillers.

 

 

 

vegeterian-kangThe Vegetarian by Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith.

Yeong-hye has been having violent nightmares and has decided to stop eating meat. This small seeming act has disrupted her marriage. Now her husband, brother-in-law and sister fight to reassert their control over Yeong-hye. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.

 

 

 

war-and-turpentine

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans. Translated by David McKay.

A grandson finds his grandfather’s notebooks that he left behind when he died in 1981.  The grandfather, Urbain Martien, was an artist, soldier and survivor of World War I. A vivid telling of life that was desired versus the life of a soldier that Martien was forced to become.

 

 

 

 

NONFICTION

existentialist-cafeAt the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

Paris, 1933. Three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse– and ignite a movement, creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism: Existentialism.

 

 

 

dark-moneyDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

“Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.” -From the Hardcover Edition

 

 

 

evictedEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Desmond writes of eight families in the poorest areas of Milwaukee. Once evictions were rare but they are becoming more commonplace since families are spending more than half their income on rent. This book does not just describe the problems that cause poverty but offers ideas and solutions.

 

 

 

in-the-darkroomIn the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

The author sets out to find someone that she scarely knew. Her father. Memories of him were of a violent man but Faludi wanted to confront him and find her own identity. What she found was a woman living in Hungary that had a gender reassignment surgery. Her father’s new identity forces Faludi to cross the borders of historical, political, sexual and religious lines. Faludi seeks the answer to the question, do we choose our identity?

 

 

 

returnThe Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

Hisham Matar travels to Libya, his native country, in pursuit of his father, Jaballah Matar.  Jaballah was a former diplomat and a military man that was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo. The prison that he was held in is now empty, but his son, Hisham, hopes to find him.

Huck: Book 1: All-American by Mark Millar

huckI love superheroes, but lately I’ve been burnt out on spandex superheroes in my own reading. Needing a mental reading break for myself, I scoured the new shelves looking for a hero without a leotard. I found my good ol’ hero in Huck: Book One: All-American.

Huck begins in a quiet seaside town with a large muscled man bouncing around on top of several cars on a busy interstate. He then runs exceedingly fast and dives into the ocean. He lifts heavy objects, finds what he’s looking for, and deposits it on a local woman’s doorstep. With that quick introduction, readers are left wondering who exactly that mysterious person is. That’s Huck.

Huck is a local gas station clerk who uses his special gifts every day to do a good deed for someone. Huck can find anything and anyone. Seriously. It’s one of his gifts, besides super-duper strength and general all-around awesome good guy-ness(Is that a word? I’m making it a word.) Everyone in this small town knows to keep Huck’s good deeds and gifts a secret because he needs to be protected. Seems easy, right? Nope. A new person moves into town and, of course, ruins his anonymity. With this new person blabbing his story to the media, Huck soon finds himself unwillingly famous and hounded at every turn by anyone and everyone. With this fame, people start coming out of the woodwork looking for help, to introduce him to the world, and to solve the mystery of his past. Huck naturally believes the good in all, but to the people in this small town(and to the readers), it quickly becomes obvious that his new friends may not actually be his friends and the people in danger may not really be the ones in danger. Things can actually be too good to be true.

If you want a superhero without spandex or even just a good old feel-good helping story, check out Huck by Millar and let me know what you think!

The Champions

championslargeThe Champions is a documentary about Michael Vick’s pit bulls that were used for dog fighting.

In 2007, Michael Vick was found to be involved in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring and served 21 months in jail. The dogs were originally held as “evidence” for the trial.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and other animal organizations, such as the Friends of Animals, took in the former fighting dogs.  Of the 49 dogs that were seized from Vick’s property, only ONE dog was euthanized for being too vicious. One other dog was euthanized due to health problems.

So what happened to the other 47 dogs?  The Champions follows some of the Vick dogs to see what happened to them after they were rescued. One dog, Cherry, is a prime example of how sweet pit bull dogs can be. Cherry was super shy and scared of a lot of things when he was rescued.  With a lot of love and patience from the Friends of Animals, Cherry was able to trust people again and was adopted by a loving family, which includes two small children, a dog and a cat. Recently, Cherry was given his “Best Day of Ever” (find the video on YouTube). Part of his best day was being able to play with kittens. Cherry clearly is a lover, not a fighter.

The theme of this documentary is that pit bulls are just like any other dog. A lot of myths surround the pit bull breed that are simply untrue. Sadly, many pit bulls are euthanized every day due to misconceptions of this breed. There are many communities that have bans on pit bulls. Dogs in these areas would be confiscated and put down. This became a concern when 22 of the Vick dogs had to be taken cross country. Another pit bull owner ran into this situation. He lived in Miami and was transferred to Toronto, which bans pit bulls. He felt that he could not teach his children that dogs were disposable. Now his family continues to live in Miami while he is in Toronto.

The Vick dogs have left a lasting legacy. They have proven that dogs from fighting rings can become family pets, agility dogs and therapy dogs. If dogs are given food, water, shelter and the proper training, they can be loving animals. Now dogs rescued from fighting rings are no longer automatically euthanized. Rescue organizations now step in to help take care of these dogs.

 

Read more about the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s fighting ring:

lost-dogsThe Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s dogs and their tale of rescue and redemption by Jim Gorant

 

 

audieSaving Audie: a pit bull puppy gets a second chance by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Even though this book is in the juvenile section, there is a lot of information for adults and children. A great book to learn about Michael Vick’s dogs and more importantly, the love and compassion people have for dogs.

 

 

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