Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

The Friends of the Georgetown Library’s Hill Country Author Series will feature author James Magnusun on May 8th (2014) at 3:00 PM. Magnuson's new book is
Famous Writers I have Known: A Novel. Tickets for the event are $13 in advance and $15 at the door, and may be purchased at the Second Hand Prose bookstore on the second floor of the library or by contacting Ricki McMillian at 512-818-8074. A dessert from the Red Poppy Café in the library will be served with the presentation. The library is located at 402 W. 8th Street in Georgetown.

Next event soon

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nothing Daunting about Nothing Daunted

We are so eclectic in our reading that I almost hesitate to say that Nothing Daunted, by Dorothy Wickenden, was an unusual choice for us. It does seem an unusual story, though, and those of us who read it are thankful to Lyn for finding it for us! Lyn wrote a hand-written letter to author Dorothy Wickenden, who is an editor for New Yorker magazine. The author sent an email back, saying that her next book will be about three women from Auburn and the Underground Railroad, based on letters. Lyn showed us a 3-minute slide show, with narrative by the author and photos from the book and some that weren't in the book. You can see the slide show online at

The subtitle of the book is "The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West." Lyn opened the conversation by asking us what we thought the young women, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, learned, even though they were ostensibly the teachers. Linda said that because of her experience of the hardships of Colorado, Dorothy was probably better able to deal with the hardships of raising children by herself later when her husband was killed by a car (after pushing Dorothy out of the way) at age 43. Marsha noted that the girls had been most worried (daunted?) at the idea of teaching "domestic science," because neither knew how to cook or clean or do anything around the house. They learned cooking and many self-sufficiency skills in Colorado that they might never have learned had they stayed in their insulated world in the East. Patty suggested that the girls learned about difficulties of people's lives that they might never have imagined. Lyn mentioned that they learned about how a coal mine works when they toured Perry's mine...Safari, anyone? The group generally agreed that the girls lives were previously protected and that their experiences with the terrain, weather, travel, and much of everything else they did in Colorado expanded their education.

When Lyn nominated this book, she mentioned that she had been attracted to the book because she had taught in a country schoolhouse in the Hill Country. Marla asked Lyn to tell us about her experience. Lyn taught in Bandera from 2005-2007. The students were from ranching families. They had good manners and knew about farming and animals. Lyn was hired to teach to the TAKS test (standardized Texas test), but she did much more. She lived near the school and had much interaction with the students. She sometimes drove them home after a long day at school, visited their homes, and helped them privately when needed. The school and the students' lives were somewhat old-fashioned; but in the 21st century, the school did have a computer lab with Internet. Some of the students planned to continue to college, though many would be ranchers without higher educations.

Suzanne shared a list of "rules" from when her mother had taught in the 1920s in Utopia, TX - the same Utopia we read about in Welcome to Utopia: Notes From a Small Town, by Karen Valby (who visited our group). Long before Valby's study of the town, the rules for teachers included the following: No wearing bright colors, skirts had to be 2" below the knee, 2 petticoats were required, teachers were not allowed to fraternize with men or be married, no smoking, no playing cards, and no dyed hair.

Pat brought 2 large photographs from Wisconsin from the 1920s, when her Mom and aunts were all teachers. The photos were of a large group of women teachers. They also were not allowed to be married. Pat said school in Wisconsin didn't close during the winter unless it was 30 degrees below zero!

Thanks to everyone who shared stories of small schools they attended! I was looking at Pat's photos when that conversation began, and since I had missed the beginning, I decided to just enjoy it rather than take partial notes.

Websites of interest: (the book website) (website of the oldest continuing performing arts school and camp in the U.S., which was begun by Charlotte Perry, sister of Bob Perry, who married Ros.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We'll always have Paris

For those now reading The Paris Wife, may I suggest a photo book that will give an excellent feel for life among the artists and writers in Montparnasse during the 20's? If you can find a copy, take a look at Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930. And be sure to read the captions and text (and even the footnotes!). It really enriches your understanding of the life and times of the art community in Paris. It seems like everyone was there then.This is also when Barnes was amassing his wonderful collection of art (which some of you may have seen part of, when it came to the Kimball).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A question

I am enjoying our book for March. A suggested question for you all to ponder... Where were your families and what were they doing in 1916?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Paradise Lost

I have the Paradise Lost theme on my mind today because I took some photos of what several weeks ago was a very deeply wooded piece of Brushy Creek Trail near my house and is now being cleared for a road and a hundred houses. This comes to mind when thinking of our February discussion of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, by Giorgio Bassani. The book starts with the family enjoying their property and wealth and ends with the family destroyed by the Nazis. In between, we have a love story and a peek into how a Jewish family in a small town might have experienced the rise of Nazi power in Italy.

A smaller percentage of the group than usual got through this book. The sentences were long, contained foreign words from several cultures and references to foreign locations, and often went off in tangential directions and returned before ending.

After Dennis gave us some background about the book, we questioned whether it was autobiographical, even though it is listed as fiction. It seemed to me that all the information pointed toward strong autobiographical influences. (1) The author wrote several other books about Jews in Ferraro, Italy. (2) The author married a woman he met playing tennis. (3) The prologue and epilogue seem like narrative from life. (4) The narrator, who we assume is Bassani, says that after all the years gone by since the war and since the events of the story, it's time to tell the story. (5) The narrator/main character of the story is referred to as Giorgio, the author's first name, at least once or twice in the book. Page number, anyone?

Dennis divided the story into 4 parts, each of which has a theme involving a question of "what if?" Part 1 begins where the prologue ends, with the tomb. Part 1 comprises 1929 to 1938. What if Giorgio had climbed the wall and gone into the garden? Part 2 starts in 1938, 2 months after the racial laws went into effect in Italy and ends when Micòl goes away. What if Giorgio had kissed her during that romantic moment in the carriage? Part 3 is the 4 years when Micòl was in Venice. What if Giorgio had visited her there? Part 4 is when Micòl is home but there is impending doom in the village, the world, and the relationship. What if there wasn't a war?

Our discussion focused on the love story and on the pre-Holocaust history. Cindy thought there wasn't enough detail about either the love story or how the Jews were affected by the racial laws. There was some indication that the love story was somewhat thwarted by the possibility of war and the more and more dismal outlook for the Jews' freedom. Patty noted that the contrast between the aristocracy and the middle class was a theme of both the love story and the attitude of the Jews toward the racial laws. The Finzi-Continis were aristocracy and also Jews. Janice thought that Micòl's rejection of Giorgio had little to do with Giorgio's social status and was because she just wasn't interested in him romantically. Joyce gave us some comic relief by saying that when Micòl stayed in Venice for 4 years, Giorgio should have "gotten the hint!"

The Finzi-Continis expected and received some extra respect for their social standing but not enough and were treated as Jews in a Nazi state rather than wealthy members of the community in the end. There was a feeling in this book that we have experienced with previous readings and discussions, that the individuals in the small town did not want to discriminate against the Finzi-Continis but were forced to do so by political pressure. Patty asked how many Jews from Italy were killed in the Holocaust. Marla Googled the question on the spot and found an answer of 48,000.

We did discuss Alberto's possible homosexual love for Malnate and Malnate's possible physical love with Micòl. The movie also cannot be ignored. Although Bassani supposedly did not accept the movie, it is probably rare for anyone to read the book without knowing about the movie. The movie stayed close to the book in many ways but also branched out and made assumptions. The book and movie are both part of the art that reflects the Holocaust.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's ahead for Round Rock Public Library?

Prior to our recent World Made by Hand discussion (and thank you again, Pat, for leading us to such a thought-provoking title) several of you asked important questions about the library's post-bond-approval plans.

My answer each time was something like, "I'd love to know that, as well," but here's more definitive information:  Michelle Cervantes, the library's director, has posted to the Library Master Plan blog.  Her entry, titled, "The bond passed.  Now what?" covers FAQs.  And we're all looking forward to learning updates as developments occur!

Friday, January 24, 2014

World Made by Hand - An Apocalypse Novel

Most everyone raised a hand to indicate that they read World Made by Hand, by James Howard Kunstler. Just a few hands dropped toward half mast in answer to how many "liked" the book. Although no one complained about anything specific, we quickly began our discussion by digging into the mystical ending, which was perhaps a "deus ex machina" tool. Although we didn't take a vote, I suspect that this supernatural ending was the main complaint about World Made by Hand. When talking with Lydia earlier in the month, she said that she liked the book but that she and other had some issues with it; and I would know what she meant when I got there. So, as I was reading, I was wondering what she was alluding to. At first I thought it might be the tortures that Karp inflicted on Loren. I didn't much like the queen-bee theme but felt it fit and somewhat explained some of the obvious oddity foreshadowed all along about the New Faith group. But then when I read about the otherworldly identical fatal neck bites, I thought the author had gone too far into unreality. These and the mystical woman seemed to me to take the story in a different direction than it had been going, perhaps an unnecessary one. I was a little disappointed. Janice said she was reading a theme of humans being responsible for our destiny and was hoping there would be an overcoming of the problems but felt disappointed by the turn the book took toward the supernatural. Dennis suggested that there could have been an aspect of radiation or something like that implied to cause some science-fictionlike mutations that would create a monster. I guess the author had to do something to stop the potential warring that would have occurred between Karp's gang and the rest of the town.  

Some of us found the story depressing at first, eg, Carla and I. Dennis said he almost stopped reading early in the story but continued for the sake of discussion. I believe all 3 of us got into the book at some point and found it to be a bit of a page-turner. This finishing of a book that seems uninteresting, depressing, or otherwise unworthy and ends up being compelling is part of the charm of book club!  

As Pat led the discussion, we talked a little more about the plot and characters and the indicated future within the story. I brought up a beef with main character, Robert, being seduced by the young beautiful Britney even though he was already quite attracted to the older Jane Ann. Looking more closely at this theme, I get a distaste for the author as a person (man). When I mentioned this, Carla noted that all the town leaders and the council were male. Marcia suggested that this was reasonable, what with so many women and children having died during the flu epidemic. Cindy mentioned a confluence of a back-to-nature world and reversion to a male-dominated society that seemed somewhat natural, considering the physical aspects of life and the implied need to begin repopulating society.

As is often the case, this book brought forth more universal realistic themes outside of the story. This time, it was the potential dangers that threaten our physical and social lives. Each of us thought about whether we are likely to survive an apocalypse of whatever type. Some shared plans they have made and strategies they have learned. It's a big topic! I'm not going to list opinions and ideas from this part of the discussion. Personal outlooks on these things can change, and I don't think any of us should be pigeonholed by what might be private thoughts or plans we shared at the meeting on this topic. I will say that our group presented a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas! You can look online to find out what the "Preppers" are doing. Watch any of a number of apocalypse movies or TV series. Think about it and/or, as Frank suggested, "Live now and love each other."

The author, James Howard Kunstler, has a number of books about our society and its precarious future. The book we read, World Made by Hand, is second in a series. His third novel about Union Grove is due in August of this year. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Recommend One Second After as a complement to World Made by Hand

Hello book friends,
I have just finished our January selection World Made by Hand which I very much look forward to discussing in January.  After you’ve finished it, if you’re looking for more, I recommend One Second After* by William R. Forstchen as a good complement. One Second After addresses life in the IMMEDIATE aftermath (in this case of an electromagnetic pulse), while World Made by Hand represents life 10+ years later. Each book triggered lots of pondering - but about somewhat different things.
*Billie Perkins nominated this book for our club a few years ago but it was not selected.