Between the Lines Book Club: Announcing July!

between the lines book club logoAnnouncing our July Book Club selection: The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough! We will be meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, CA, at 10:30AM on July 30, 2016 to discuss the book in person, and we’ll also discuss it right here every Friday in July.

The Wright Brothers is a non-fiction book that describes how the Wright Brothers and their sister, Katherine, built the first heavier than air, manned, flying machine. David McCullough is something of a celebrity in the world of biographies: he won the Pulitzer Prize for Truman and another of John Adams. He’s also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s written eleven books and narrated many films and documentaries.

If you live in the Sacramento area, you can get a copy of The Wright Brothers at Arden Dimick Library’s circulation desk – just tell them it’s for book club!

cover of The Wright Brothers

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Further Reading

between the lines book club logoThis month’s book club selection is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. We will be meeting at Arden Dimick Library tomorrow (6/25/16) to discuss the book, not to mention to admire the new look of the refurbished library.

All the Light We Cannot See is centered around WWII – and I say “centered around” because the story starts before the war and ends in 2014. If, like me, you are an avid google, the book has topics to chase down. Here are links to a few that might be of interest:

St-Malo Then and now

“The Burning of St. Malo” by Philip Beck

St-Malo: an Indépendent Travel Guide

“St-Malo”, Lonely Planet

Saintmalo

National Museum of Natural History

“Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle”, Lonely Planet

“A Giant Cabinet of Curiosities in Paris” by Messy Nessy

Hall of Evolution

Famous Diamonds

“51 Famous and Historic Diamonds” , abazias diamonds

“Carats and Curses: Five of the Most Famous Diamonds in the World”, The Telegraph

Between The Lines Book Club: Blindness in All the Light We Cannot See

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club, which meets in this space every Friday and will be meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library on June 25, 2016 at 10:30AM. This month’s book is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.

One of the main characters in All the Light is a blind girl named Marie. Marie is fiercely protected by every other major character with the exception of the arch-villain of the story. Her father bathes her and dresses her and helps her put on her shoes well into her teens. Marie usually seems much younger than her actual age – at the start of the book she is six, but although later she is a teenager seems more like a girl between the ages of ten and twelve. She is presented as without flaws, other than a kind of passivity. However, she does show resourcefulness and increasing independence.

Most reviewers have praised the book, but some have pointed out that Marie represents an unrealistic version of life as a blind people. Blind people learn to navigate without ropes and model houses, and they can most certainly dress themselves. In this passionate essay by Sheri Wells-Jensen, Wells-Jensen (who is blind) analyzes the portrayal of Marie as a character “without agency”.

Not everyone agrees – here’s a dissenting essay by blind author Beth Finke. She felt that Marie was a well-rounded character, and she especially admires the way the writing stays within Marie’s point of view, so we don’t see anything she doesn’t see.

What do you think? Is Marie realistically written? Is she more, less, or equally passive than Werner, who drifts along with the army and makes very few choices on his own behalf?

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Between the Lines Book Club: All The Light We Cannot See

between the lines book club logoArden Dimick Library is open again and it is BEAUTIFUL. If you don’t have a copy of All The Light We Cannot See, our book club selection for June, just request one at the circulation desk.We will be meeting on June 25, 2016 at 10:30AM!

All The Light We Cannot See tells two stories (set in WWII) that seem inextricably connected even though the characters only meet briefly. Marie is a blind French girl who lives in Paris and, later, in the besieged town of St. Malo. Werner is a young German soldier who specializes in radio equipment and in locating radio signals. The novel is notable less for it’s plot and more for its use of lovely language to describe difficult times and the characters’ internal states:

What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models… None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.

The book was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. One of the things I noticed, though, is that every review has a different, “The book was great but…” Did you like the book? Did you have a “The book was great, but…” reaction?

Review Links:

The Guardian

NPR

New York Times

Washington Post

Between the Lines Book Club: Fantasy

between the lines book club logoOnly one more month until Arden Dimick Library is done with renovations, and the Sacramento area Book Clubbers can meet in person! Our next meeting will be on May 6, 2016, at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick.

In the meantime, I’m encouraging readers to try reading something outside their usual genres. This month, if your usual tastes lean towards mystery or romance or mainstream fiction, try out a fantasy genre novel. Here’s a link to an earlier post I wrote in which I suggest some great fantasy novels for readers new to the genre. From J.R.R. Tolkien to Saladin Ahmed, the genre continues to delight readers.

Enjoy your month, and tell us what you are reading these days!

Between the Lines Book Club: Humor Books

between the lines book club logoHello my dear book clubbers – I apologize for being late with this post. Like many other posts, it fell victim to the Evil Death Virus that hit me at the beginning of the month. I hope you are all healthy and happy and not in a panic about finishing your taxes.

While our in-person club is on hiatus, I’m encouraging all of us to read outside our preferred genres. Since April is the month of taxes and allergies, here’s a link to my post on funny books – ranging from dark humor like Catch-22, classics such as Lysistrata, and many more. Enjoy, and happy reading!

Between the Lines Book Club: The Book Club Cookbook

between the lines book club logoHello book clubbers! I hope everyone has found a romance to read this month, as discussed in my last Between the Lines post. Can’t wait to see everyone in person in Sacramento on June 25, 2016, at the newly refurbished Arden Dimick Library!

Recently I read The Book Club Cookbook, by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. I fell in love with this cookbook for the following reasons:

  • It gives descriptions of book clubs all over America, each of which has a different focus and a different chemistry. It was so fun to compare these different groups.
  • It talks about how food fits thematically into various specific books – how the inclusion of food affects the reader’s perception of the story and the characters.
  • It explores how different clubs use food to enhance their experience.
  • All the food sounds delicious.

I’m not much of a cook, personally, but I liked the approach of one group of non-cooks who had some small food item at each meeting that related to the book, and members had to guess how. For instance, the leader brought little honey candies to a discussion of A Secret Life of Bees. Some members were more ambitious, but keeping it simple seems to have been part of the challenge. What do you think, book clubbers? Shall we take our snacks up a notch?

You can find my full-length review of The Book Club Cookbook at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

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Between the Lines Book Club: Romance Month

between the lines book club logoWelcome back, Book Clubbers! In Between the Lines Book Club, we meet here and in person at Arden Dimick Library to discuss literary fiction and nonfiction. While Arden Dimick is closed for renovations, I’m challenging my book clubbers to try some different genres, just for fun.

 

Last month we talked about mysteries. I had some suggestions, and book clubbers wrote in  with suggestions of their own. This month, we’re going to talk about romance. That right, I want you to crack open a Romance Novel. I’m even suggesting one with Fabio on the cover. Why? Because, and I know this will be hard to believe, it’s a very good book.

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A book so good I own two copies. You’ll just have to trust me – nothing about the actual book screams “Fabio offers a person flowers.”

 

No genre is more stigmatized than romance, and yet no genre is as varied (or as lucrative – the industry is massive). For a book to be a “Romance Novel” as opposed to a “Novel with romance in it”, it only has to meet two criteria:

  1. The reader must care about the romance more than anything else in the story.
  2. There must be a happy ending which involves the two (or, in more daring romance, especially erotic, more than two) protagonists finding romantic happiness together.

Based on these criteria, Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel, as is Jane Eyre. Those books can be read in many other ways as well, but that’s true of many romance novels – they cross genre lines. In contrast, Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, because it ends sadly, although it is a novel that contains romance. The comedies of Shakespeare are plays, not novels, but in every other respect they fit the bill (Romeo and Juliet is a tragic romance, not a Romance Novel, because the happy ending is the key component of a romance novel).

Romance novels are often criticsized as being formulaic, but they are no more formulaic than literary fiction (characters will reveal truths about society) or mysteries (there will be a crime and the crime will be solved). Other than the happy ending, everything is open to variations. There are contemporary romance novels, science fiction ones, mysteries, historical, and westerns. Some have sex scenes that are barely implied and others are explicit. Some novels are written with beautiful language and impeccable structure, some barely made it through spellcheck. It’s a varied world out there.

At this link is a post I wrote introducing a variety of romance novels (yes, including the Fabio cover one). You might also check out the other site I write for, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You can search the site by grade – when I first started reading romance I went down the list of A grade books until I got s feel for the genre. Try one this month, and let us know what you thought! There are a host of terrible, terrible romance novels out there, but some brilliant ones as well. Enjoy! We’ll be meeting in person at the end of June when the library has been beautiful refurbished.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: It’s a Mystery Edition!

between the lines book club logoDear Book Clubbers, we are on a hiatus while Arden Dimick Library gets a makeover – our next in person meeting will be on June 25, 2016. In the meantime, some of my book clubbers were chatting after our last meeting and asking for book recommendations for the break. While many of my regular readers are into genre fiction (science fiction, comics, and romance) many of my book clubbers are more well-versed in literary fiction and nonfiction. So once a month between now and June, I’m going to reprint one of my Gateway Drug columns from the genres of mystery, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and humor. This is a great chance to try something new!

 

This month I’m recommending some mysteries. I find that I’m usually not terribly interested in whodunnit, but I enjoy mysteries because they often allow the reader to peek into hidden parts of society. Mysteries can be set in any time and location, and in the course of events the detective will encounter all sorts of people. Thanks to mysteries I’ve read about the African-American neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the 1940s, modern day Saudi Arabia, Victorian England, and more. Click on the link to find a list of recommendations that range all over the world. Don’t forget the classics, dear Watson!

https://geekgirlinlove.com/category/gateway-drugs/

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between the lines book club logoTomorrow (January 23, 2015) Between the Lines Book Club is meeting at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library to discuss Orange is the New Black. You can also participate in book club by leaving a comment below!

In Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black, she talks about the dehumanizing experience of jail and the social issues which contribute to women spending time there. Our penal system exists in a complex social and political system that includes institutionalized racism and sexism as well as poverty and limited physical and mental health care for those who need it most.

If you find this topic interesting, here are four articles that give some information about the state of American jails and prisons today.

The American Jail Association’s “Ten Facts About Women in Jail” give a good overview of the situation of women in the penal system.

The Huffington Post reports that “The US is Home to Nearly One-Third of the World’s Female Prisoners”

“Hellhole”, by Atul Gawdane, explored the impact of solitary confinement in American prisons.

“The Milwaukee Experiment” addresses the disproportionate number of African americans in prison and what some people are doing about it. At the bottom of the article are links to other New Yorker articles about prison in America.

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Between the Lines Book Club: Orange is the New Black

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is thrilled to be meeting on January 23rd at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM. We also meet here in the comments, so even if you don’t live in or near Sacramento, California, you can participate. This month’s selection is Orange is the New Black.

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Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman. In 1993, Piper helped her girlfriend launder drug money. In 1998, she was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking, and beginning in 2004 she spent thirteen months as an inmate at Danbury Prison, a minimum-security prison for women. Orange is the New Black tells of her experiences during her stay in prison. It became the basis for the Netflix show of the same name which to date has won a total of seven Emmy Awards.

 

Today, Piper serves on the Board of the Women’s Prison Association and is an advocate for prison reform. She has been married to her current husband, Larry, since 2006.

 

I was delighted to see that my favorite online study guide, schmoop.com, has an entry for Orange is the New Black. Study guides have a bad reputation because some people use the guide to avoid reading the book. Don’t do that! But as a supplement to your reading, study guides are great; so don’t be afraid to take a look.

 

Next week I’ll post a few links and clips from the TV show of the same name. It’s a show I’ve never watched, although it’s critically acclaimed and very popular. If you watch the show, how does it compare to the book? Why do you like or dislike about it? Let us know!

 

Between the Lines Book Club Takes a Break

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is taking what we hope will be a short break as Arden Dimick Library undergoes some renovations. I can’t wait to see the building when the project is complete! Also, I can’t wait to get back to book club. In the meantime, I have a stack of books taller than I am to get through, so I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to fill my days. Right now I’m reading Miracle and other Christmas Stories by Connie willis. What’s on your To Be Read pile?

Between the Lines Book Club: What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is reading Among Others by Jo Walton this month. If you are in the Sacramento, California area meet us at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library on Saturday, October 23, 2015 for an in-person chat! Otherwise, leave comments here. Among Others is a coming of age story about a young woman who finds her place in the world through reading. It may or may not also be a fantasy involving faeries, depending on how you look at it.

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If you enjoy Walton’s writing, or if you have an interest in the genre of literary criticism, I urge you to check out another book by Walton. It’s a collection of essays called What Makes This Book So Great. In this collection, Walton talks about a huge range of speculative fiction books, as well as some mainstream fiction. In fact, one of her best essays addresses the difference between SFF and mainstream fiction. When she says, “I tend to read everything as SF” I realized that this is true of me, as well, although I’d say “speculative fiction.”

Walton also talks about the pleasures of re-reading and about the rewards and pitfalls of this practice. I loved her invention of “The Suck Fairy”:

If you read a book for the first time, and it sucks, that’s noting to do with her. It just sucks. Some books do. The Suck Fairy comes in when you come back to a book that you liked when you read it before, and on re-reading, well, it sucks. You can say that you have changed, you can hit your forehead dramatically and ask yourself how you could possibly have missed the sukiness the first time-or you can say that The Suck Fairy has been through it while the book was sitting on the shelf and inserted the suck…The advantage of this is exactly the advantage of thinking of one’s once-beloved ex as having been eaten by a zombie, who is now shambling around using the name and body of the former person. It lets one keep one’s original love clear of later betrayals.

I recommend this book primarily for fans of SFF but anyone interested in literary criticism should pick it up and read a few of the essays at least. It’s gorgeous writing and Walton always seems like that cool but tough professor who would red ink all your essays but also teach class in a coffee shop and buy everyone snacks.

Between the Lines Book Club: Jo Walton Mini-Bio and links!

between the lines book club logoThis month Between the Lines Book Club is reading Among Others by Jo Walton. Love comments here or join us in person at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM. Sat Oct 24.

Jo Walton was born in Wales and she speaks Welsh fluently. She moved to Canada in 2002. She’s the author of many science fiction and fantasy books, as well as a recent book of non-fiction titled “What Makes This Book So Great.” Her earlier series were relatively light fare (I’m crazy about them, by the way) and included fantasy (The King’s PeaceTooth and Claw) and alternate history (The Small Change Series). Her recent series, The Thessaly Series, kicked off with a critically acclaimed book called The Just City. The series asks what would happen if Plato’s theoretical city was actually built, and populated by real children and adults.

Unlike many authors I write about, Walton seems to have led a relatively calm, or at least private life. Her bios are largely lists of awards – Among Other, for instance, is one of only seven books to be nominated for The Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the World Fantasy Award (it won the Nebula and Hugo). Luckily for me, she wrote a bio, she uses on her blog (jowaltonbooks.com), and to introduce some of her works. Here’s Jo Walton’s autobiography:

Jo Walton
has run out of eggs and needs to go buy some,
she has no time to write a bio
as she wants to make spanakopita today.
She also wants to write a new chapter
and fix the last one.
Oh yes, she writes stuff,
when people leave her alone to get on with it
and don’t demand bios
and proofreading and interviews
and dinner.
Despite constant interruptions
she has published nine novels
in the last forty-eight years
and started lots of others.
She won the Campbell for Best New Writer in 2002
when she was 38.
She has also written half a ton of poetry
which isn’t surprising as she finds poetry
considerably easier to write
than short bios listing her accomplishments.
She is married, with one (grown up, awesome) son
who lives nearby with his girlfriend and two cats.
She also has lots of friends
who live all over the planet
who she doesn’t see often enough.
She remains confused by punctuation,
“who” and “whom”
and “that” and “which”.
She cannot sing and has trouble with arithmetic
also, despite living ten years in Montreal
her French still sucks.
Nevertheless, her novel Among Others
won a Hugo and a Nebula
so she must be doing something right
at least way back when she wrote it
it’ll probably never work again.
She also won a World Fantasy Award in 2004
for an odd book called Tooth and Claw
in which everyone is dragons.
She comes from South Wales
and identifies ethnically
as a Romano-Briton
but she emigrated to Canada
because it seemed a better place
to stand to build the future.
She blogs about old books on Tor.com
and posts poetry and recipes and wordcount on her LJ
and is trying to find something to bribe herself with
as a reward for writing a bio
that isn’t chocolate.

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Between The Lines Book Club: The Sustainable Food Movement

between the lines book club logoHey Sacramento followers – Between the Lines Book Club meets tomorrow (9/26/15) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM! Not in the Sacramento area? Leave your comments about The Third Plate here!

In The Third Plate, chef Dan Barber talks about the importance of making sustainable agriculture part of elite cooking. Barber wants to make it fashionable to use all the parts of an animal or vegetable, rotation crops like barley and rye, and humanely and sustainably raised livestock.

Every culture has in some way grappled with the concept of sustainable agriculture, a term which basically means how to use land without using the land up to the point where it is no longer productive.. An early example from the Americas is that of the “The Three Sisters.” Several Native American Tribes had a practice of planting “The Three Sisters,” maize, beans, and squash, together. Each plant has components that keep the soil healthy, ensuring good farming in future years. The crops also proved a balanced diet when eaten together.

Sustainable agriculture is described today as agricultural practices that maximize human nutrition and quality of life while also maximizing the health of the environment and its ability to continue to provide food. This means that a farm cannot exhaust the nutrients in soil through over-farming, nor use chemical fertilizer that damages local water sources. My California readers will be most familiar with the concept in terms of water usage. While water is a renewable resource, California farms pull water out of the aquifer much faster than the aquifer can be refilled. The term “sustainable agriculture” became popular in the 1980’s. Other issues to consider are how much land is being used and how much energy a farm uses.

Discussions about sustainable farming can take a low-level approach (using different fertilizers and crop rotation, or a more radical approach (urban farming, vertical farming, and changes in the economy as a whole.

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