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: rrnewneighbors.org [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

Literary Events

_______________________________________

The TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL will be held in and around the Capitol Building November 4-6 2016

____________________________________________________

Hill Country Authors Series—November 2

Austin author Karan Mahajan will speak at the next Hill Country Authors Series on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, at 2 pm at the Library on his latest novel The Association of Small Bombs.

In this novel Mahajan writes about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators, proving to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation. His book is about the effects of one small bombing on all the people who were there, or associated with the people who were there. It tells how this bombing affects people for the rest of their lives. It also covers the terrorists: how they set up the bombing, and what happens to them during the blast. And afterwards: are they caught, do they have a trial?

The Austin-American Statesman said “A tour de force of psychological probing and empathy.” And the New York Times Book Review noted that the book is “Wonderful …smart, devastating, unpredictable and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout.”

The Huffington Post said “In a post-9/11 world, this novel should be considered a must-read.”

Tickets for the event are $15 in advance and $18 at the door, and may be purchased starting Monday, September 12, 2016 at the Second-Hand Prose bookstore on the second floor of the library, at the WOW!mobile, or by contacting Marcy Lowe at 512-868-8974. A delicious dessert and beverage from the Red Poppy Café in the library will be served with the presentation.

__________________________________________________

Round Rock Public Library Events: Book Buzz Thursday, November 10th

6:00 PM - Introduction to the Round Rock Friends of the Library. Learn about this volunteer group and grab seats for Book Buzz.

7:00 PM - Book Buzz: A publisher will summarize books that will be published during the next year. There will be prizes and refreshments and a free book for everyone!

Register Thursday October 27th (Required for Admission)

_______________________________________________

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Story Brings an Old Painting to New Life

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, was my favorite novel of the last few years! I found the characters to be realistic, the writing to be smooth, the action to be exciting, the issues to be deep, and the story to be compelling and touching. I had so many emotional reactions to the characters, their predicaments, and the story line while reading The Goldfinch, that to start the discussion, I asked everyone to express the thoughts and/or feelings they noticed while reading the book. We never did get a count as to how many Book Club members "liked" The Goldfinch. The discussion seemed to indicate a spread of opinions. Several loved the book, some had dispassionate criticisms or analyses of the book, and some didn't finish the book and didn't seem inclined to finish.

Although there were many possible discussion points about this book, our taking turns telling our personal thoughts about the book took most of our discussion time. Here are the basics:

Morna volunteered to start and mentioned that she had noticed adverse publicity about this Pulitzer Prize winning book before reading it. Morna noticed that the author was praised for her ability to burrow into the souls of the characters and that the book displayed humanistic aspects. Morna recommended Donna Tartt's other books, both of which she had read.

Cindy V. was at the part of the book when Theo was at college. She was enjoying the book and was reminded of The Catcher in the Rye, perhaps the quintessential coming-of-age story, and had an urge to reread that book.

Cindy T. liked the beginning of the book but after a while didn't care about the characters and was uncomfortable with the excessive drug use. She acknowledged that the author dealt with the drug use as a realistic problem.

Flo said that there was too much philosophy at the end of the book, but that she wanted to reread that part.

Lydia loved reading the book. She felt that Theo deserved the reader's sympathy but not admiration. She thought Theo was a good example of a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Carla didn't enjoy much of the book but liked the references to the artists. She thought readers more familiar with New York city would enjoy the book more.

Linda H. called the book a 'downer,' but didn't pass judgment on this quality. She reminded us that classic literature is not full of happy endings. She wanted to root for Theo and Pippa and saw them as damaged but felt that the author did not have much hope for them. She thought that Theo might have had more hope for healing had he stayed with the Barbours. She thought that not necessarily Boris, but Theo's father was most to blame for Theo's problems. She said it was ironic that Theo loved his mother more but grew up to be more like his father, with his dishonest business dealings and drugs and alcohol. Linda had the insight that the characters in the story were damaged, and Hobie repaired old damaged furniture.

Priscilla had read the whole book in 2014 and remembered enjoying the read but thinking of it as a 'downer.'

Jan especially enjoyed reading the parts about the relationship between Theo and Pippa.

Susan found the book tragic. She said the explosion reminded her that people in Aleppo, Syria are currently experiencing daily life like the explosion. She could relate to the characters who suffered the loss of a parent while young. Susan complimented the author and was very impressed with her use of language.  She commented on the resilience of young people in tragic circumstances.

Ken, too, was impressed with the author's ability to write. He could identify with Theo. He said skipping a grade was not always fun, and he admired how the author expressed the thought patterns of the adolescent boys. Ken spent his career working with damaged children.

Dennis read the book slowly because he was distracted by researching the artists who were mentioned. His favorite character was Boris.

As nominator of The Goldfinch, I find that neither my Barnes & Noble account nor my memory are clear as to what attracted me to the book, exactly when I bought it for my Nook, or how long it took me to read it. I remember seeing the cover often at the Barnes & Noble store and online before I read it. It is near the top of my list of "books that look good." It's considered a 'coming-of-age story,' which is a genre I tend to enjoy. It's on my list of "books read" as completed in November 2014. In my job as a part-time Editor, I completed 20 projects during all of 2014 and 32 in 2015 before August; which indicates that I had more time to read in 2014. The Goldfinch has an extremely exciting beginning, which might have given me the start I needed to dig into the book. I guess these are reasons for my reading The Goldfinch, and I know it took me longer than 2 months to read it. I was impressed and pleased that so many Book Club members completed or even began this long novel during the 2 months between my nominating it in August and our discussion last Monday, October 19th.

I will add photos of 2 posters I made to help our discussion about this long book stay on track.

Historical notes about The Goldfinch:

The painting, 'The Goldfinch' (in photo on poster) was completed in 1654 by Carel Pietersz Fabritius (1622-1654), a Dutch carpenter and painter who studied with Rembrandt. 'The Goldfinch' depicts a pet bird chained to a little perch. History tells that people often had pet goldfinches because these birds could be trained to dip a small pail into a bowl of water and carry the water. The painting was originally called 'Little Weller,' referring to the pail and a well. The artwork is housed in the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague, Netherlands. After the book was published, the painting was on display in New York City for a while.

The artist, Fabritius, was killed by an explosion in Delft, called 'The Delft Thunderclap.

'The Dutch army had stored gunpowder to defend the city, and the storage facility blew up. Several similar explosions occurred in Dutch cities over the years. This particular explosion involved 22.5 tons of TNT and destroyed a quarter of the city of Delft, killing many. Church deacon Simon Decker died with Fabritius, and it is not clear whether Tartt named her main character, Theo Decker, after him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sneak Preview



Hello Fellow Readers,
At our October 17th we will choose one of these best-selling books for discussion on January 16th.  Presented below in alphabetical order.  Must be present October 17th to vote.


CANE RIVER  by Lalita Tademy, 2005.  First book; bestselling novel.  Set in Louisiana between 1830 and 1930.  For 2 years Tademy researched her Mother’s family, then wrote this novel about 4 generations of her slave-born ancestors.  Fiction, but based on real family history.  Divided into 4 “books” (Elizabeth, Suzette, Philomena, Emily).  Subjects include “passing” as white. Includes genealogy charts, real photos, documents.  An Oprah’s Book Club Selection.

THE KITCHEN HOUSE  by Kathleen Grissom, 2010.  First book; bestselling novel. Historical fiction.  Tobacco plantation in Virginia in the late 1700s.  Narrated from 2 perspectives:  by Belle, the kitchen house cook (the master's illegitimate mulatto daughter); and Lavinia, a young, Irish orphan girl who becomes an indentured servant, first placed under the care and supervision of Belle, then later invited into the big house to care for the ailing mistress.

UNCLE TOM’s CABIN  by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852. Author’s 2nd book; best-selling novel of the 19th century.  Cotton plantations in Kentucky and Louisiana.  Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln credited Stowe for having started the Civil War with the publication of this book.  Characters include Uncle Tom, George and Eliza Harris, Eva St Clare, and Simon Legree.  Central themes include the evils and inhumanity of slavery and therefore its conflict with Christianity.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Secret Spy Ring Key to American Democracy

Carla asked, "What surprised you in this book?" to open the discussion of George Washington's Secret Six, by Brian Kilmeade. Patty was surprised that some of the dialog seemed too modern and unlikely to have been historically accurate for that time. Ken said he hadn't realized how important espionage was in 18th century warfare. He thought it was all exciting fighting and hadn't expected spy networks with femmes fatales working in the background. Carla had known about Benedict Arnold but hadn't realized how close the United States came to losing West Point to the British. This brought some consideration of the possibility that if things had been different, maybe if George Washington hadn't created his spy ring, our government would still be British. It was that close! Pam and I were surprised that the process of rebelling and fighting and establishing a new country had taken as many years as were listed in George Washington's Secret Six. From what we had learned in school, it seemed that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and the country was on its way. In George Washington's Secret Six, we saw that it was another 10 years before the British left New York, signifying defeat. Cindy T. was surprised that the spies really used codes and invisible ink. These have been the stuff of children's toys for many years, although they were very real and still are in some forms.

We were all interested in who might have been the female spy, Agent 355. Although there is no proof as to who it was, there were a number of possible women mentioned in one edition of the book. Speculation included Dennis saying she might have been a sister of one of the spies. Cindy said that there was no confirmation in the book that Agent 355 had been in prison and that any of the women in the list of possibilities in the book would have had a prison sentence attached to her history, since much was known about those women.

Cindy V. noted that while reading, she was thinking about how the spies made the decision to accept the dangerous responsibilities involved with the spy ring. She suggested it might have been easier for a woman to choose espionage because they might have been less likely to have a job and might have had less public and monetary status to lose. Carla asked all of us to consider whether we would have accepted a position as a spy for George Washington. Washington's charisma was mentioned, but Pam said that Washington and the spies were actually separated by secrecy; so working with the great General might not have been a lure. Lydia suggested that if British soldiers had taken over one's house, one might have been moved to work against the British.

The end of the discussion included some comments about the differences between this book and a factual history and also the differences between choosing a journalist's book and a historian's book. Ken said that he found some deliberate fictionalization in the book; there had been a Culper ring but that they had nothing to do with George Washington deciding to fake an attack on New York to fool the British. I said that without having gained a solid background in history, it's hard to tackle history books. Dennis, Jay, and Ken agreed that history books often contain too much information presented in a boring manner. Then they recommended some history books they had enjoyed. Frank said that journalism and popular writings are better suited to sparking interest and imagination and are gateway books, leading readers to more factual histories. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Spies in the American Revolution

For September, we are reading a book about Washington's spy ring in the New York area (by Kilmeade, who is, alas, a Fox News hack). If you are interested in learning more about the subject, I might recommend The Fox and The Hound, by Donald Markle (currently in the sales area of Barnes & Noble!), which covers spy operations in all campaigns of the war. For an even more comprehensive look, check out Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War, by Kenneth Daigler (available in paperback as well as Nook). Too interesting a topic to be given as shallow a presentation as Kilmeade.
-Dennis

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Goldfinch suggestion

When you are reading The Goldfinch, I suggest that each time an artist is mentioned, you image search for works by that artist. As an example, she mentioned Adriaen Coorte, a Dutch artist I was not familiar with. His still lives are well worth examining.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"I Used To Dream About Escaping My Ordinary Life, But My Life Was Never Ordinary. I Had Simply Failed To Notice How Extraordinary ..."

A bunch of Book Club members had read the popular book for young adults, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. We met on a rainy Monday to discuss the book. Some had read the second and third books in the series, too.

Shirley introduced the book and started the conversation with a question: "What did you think of the photos?" Joyce provided the first answer: she thought the photos were significant and had been surprised to find that they were real. Carla agreed that the photos were real, but she added that at that time in history, photographers produced a lot of illusions and special effects. Dennis believed the photos were real. Speaking of the niche in history, Linda mentioned that during the Civil War, it was not uncommon for photos to feature dead soldiers, propped up. The conversation stayed in a macabre tone, with Dennis mentioning that his daughter, as a child, liked to look at a book he had of photos of biological anomalies. Shirley reminded us of the topic at hand, by saying that the photo of Emma makes her look older than she is in the story.

Shirley thought the author was clever to use the photos and build the story around them. But she found the photos "creepy;" inadvertently, I thought, establishing creepiness as the theme behind the book, or even the trilogy. Linda H. said that some of the photos were made by double exposures. Joyce said they were photos of freaks. Dennis remembered that when he was a teenager, if he forgot to advance his camera when taking snapshots, he would get double exposures. I, too remember double exposures as what happened when you forgot to advance the film. I never thought of the double exposures as being interesting or something to experiment with; just as a mistake, with the punishment being a loss of control over the photographing of reality that I was attempting. Apparently this was stodgy and unoriginal thinking, as some of the photos in the book were clearly successful experiments and purposeful uses of the double exposure. Cindy T. said that the popularity of the photos combined with their creepiness highlights the fact that it is human nature to find those photos interesting.

The photos were indeed "peculiar." Shirley said that "peculiar" was a word often used to describe Jews. Other than the Jews being scapegoats for criticism and ridicule and being historically and during World War II targeted, terrorized, and persecuted...the Nazi theme of the book is implicit but not expanded. The persecution of Jacob's grandfather clearly implied and reminded mature readers of the Nazi regime, yet the author made this fictitious story sidestep the Nazis and focus instead on the fictitious "peculiar" people with their own specific characteristics that would be categorized as science fiction rather than based on history.

Some interesting and unique insights from the discussion:

Cindy V. noted that when the book supposedly took place, in 1942, people didn't live long and started showing their age during their teenage years. Thus, though members of the group in the story found eternal youth when they joined the group, some were teenagers by the time they joined the others and already showed some age. Lydia noted that the Peculiars would age if they left their loop, and the group left the loop at the end of the book. Carla said they were on their way to the next loop, so they didn't age much. Lydia said that the book, or her interpretation of it, ran out of steam toward the end. Jacob seemed like a teenager at first but seemed more like an adult after he experienced killing. Joyce said that a weakness of the book was that there was too much setting up for the next book. She would have preferred some resolution, and Jacob should have had some insights.


Books and media that we compared Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children to:

A Tim Burton movie, basically any Tim Burton movie, but especially his version of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a movie to be released on September 30th.

Harry Potter books - They differ from the Peculiar Children trilogy in that each book has a conclusion, but they are part of a series with a similarly common overall goal and ongoing struggle.

Time-travel stories in general

Lost Horizon, by James Hilton

Science Fiction parallel universes, particularly the Roger Zelazny Amber series, in which there is movement between fictitious worlds.

The TV series, "Grimm"

"Flash Gordon"

"Dr. Who" TV series

"Groundhog Day" movie

"Star Wars" movies

Joseph Campbell's writings about the hero's journey, in which someone of seemingly little consequence seems to be failing but ends up succeeding.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead Wake Was Too Late to Warn Lusitania Passengers of Jeopardy

20 Book Club members played Jeopardy, with all the questions on topics about Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson. Thanks to Cindy T., the game was lots of fun and brought out main points from the book. Correct answers brought taffy candies, and there were more prizes at the end. The prizes were a book Christmas Carols, to symbolize the loss on the Lusitania of an original manuscript of Dickens' Christmas Carol and a book of drawings to symbolize the loss on the Lusitania of drawings by William Makepeace Thackeray. Dennis won first prize, Ken won second, and Carla was third...congratulations! The questions were challenging!

Here are some of the answers and the questions that went with them. Remember, this was Jeopardy!
26 knots: How fast could the Lusitania go?
A Roman province on the Iberian peninsula: What was Lusitania?
The world must be safe for democracy: What was the reason Woodrow Wilson gave for asking in a speech to Congress and his Cabinet  in 1917 that the U.S. declare war?
2 days after World War 1 began, this woman died of Bright's disease: Who was Woodrow Wilson's wife?
These were found by the Russians and were given to the British Admiralty and used in Room 40 in London for intercepting messages and translating them: What were code books?
The North Channel: What new route open to civilian liners did the Admiralty fail to transmit information about to the Lusitania?
Woodrow Wilson was doing this daily activity when he heard the first report about the deaths of Americans on the Lusitania: What was the daily walk around the green areas of the golf course?
This young Austrian soldier wrote about a stalemate during the second battle of Belgium where poison gas was used and people died: Who was Corporal Adolph Hitler?
These parts of the Lusitania had a design flaw that made the ship relatively easy to sink: What were coal bunkers?
And the Final Jeopardy answer/question that caused some confusion and discussion about interpretation was the following: A dead wake from a ship or torpedo leaves this kind of trail: What is a fading disturbance? Cindy T. researched this further after the meeting and wrote in an email message, "On page 440, the author states that dead wake is a maritime term for the disturbance that lingers on the sea long after the passage of a vessel.  This term resonates in other ways which might be the lesson of the book."

After finishing the game, we talked some more about parts of the book that had impressed us and were left somewhat unresolved. We talked about the potential conspiracy among the British officials, including Winston Churchill, to allow harm's way to intersect with the Lusitania to encourage America to enter the war. Another issue not handled clearly was Turner's guilt as the ship's Captain. It seemed he didn't really make a mistake but he suffered a lot of blame. Wilson's interest in a declaration of war after the sinking of the Lusitania even though the United States had been staying out it of also brought questions. And then there were the infamous 2 supposed explosions, of which only 1 was noticed.

An interesting discussion involved our answers to the question of whether we would have boarded the Lusitania if we had tickets for that fateful voyage. Carla said that she probably would have gone on the trip, without the hindsight we now have, because it's fun to travel and go on cruises. Dennis said that new ships were always considered dangerous, and that the Titanic had been a new ship, so he probably would not have bought a ticket on the new ship. Ken said the ship's design made it very topheavy, so it would keep its stability only if it didn't leak and stow a heavy amount of water. Linda said that since Britain was at war, the news probably would have allowed people to know that ships were being sunk, so that would have dissuaded her. Marla said that Americans tend to think they will always be safe or will have exceptions made for them, such as making space for them on a crowded lifeboat, if they say that they are Americans. Joyce said that the travelers were not necessarily on vacation but were traveling for business or to visit family.