Friday, January 22, 2016

[Book Review] Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Fiction/Suspense

Joshua reviews DISCLAIMER by Renee Knight (Harper, 2015)


Disclaimer, the debut novel by British author Renee Knight, is another example of the "unreliable narrator" category of novels, such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, that have become so popular in recent years.  This book has drawn favorable comparisons to those two novels, and I found it to be a worthwhile and suspenseful read.
Knight's novel uses the "book-within-a-book" device to set the story in motion, as the main character Catherine, a married documentary filmmaker, discovers an unfamiliar book, titled The Perfect Stranger, in her new home and begins to realize that the story depicted in its pages is her own.  The book's disclaimer ("Any resemblance to persons living or dead…") has been crossed out in red ink, thus the title of Knight's book.
The book Catherine finds has been ghost-written by an elderly widower, a retired (in disgrace) schoolteacher, who found his deceased wife's unpublished manuscript in an old desk, and has worked it up for publication in order to send a message to Catherine.  The man's book is a thinly fictionalized (Catherine's name has been changed to Charlotte, for example) account of a vacation twenty years earlier on the coast of Spain where Catherine, then a young mother whose husband had gone back to England for work, met the author's twenty-year old son.  A tragedy occurred during the vacation, and The Perfect Stranger is the man's attempt to make Catherine pay for her apparent role in the horrific events that befell his family.
As with all of the books in this sub-genre, things are not as they first seem.  Disclaimer is told in alternating narrator fashion, with chapters about Catherine in third-person and those about the older man in first-person as he describes his vengeful intentions.  As the two narratives draw closer together, we learn that the true story of what happened in Spain two decades earlier is very different from the reality that we have been led to believe all along.
While there are some loose ends of the story that I still have questions about, I really enjoyed Disclaimer, and I would definitely recommend it to readers who have read books along the lines of those I mentioned at the beginning of this review and would be interested in novels with similar stories.  Even though this book doesn't have "Girl" in the title as so many of these do!
Joshua Thomas, Central Library

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

[Book Review] LUSH by Natasha Friend

Fiction/Young Adult


Andrea reviews LUSH by Natasha Friend  (Scholastic Press, 2006)

Samantha wants to be a normal 13-year-old girl. She wants to hang out with her friends, talk about guys, have slumber parties, and go on dates. But because of her secret, being normal is not always possible. Sure, her mother is weird in the fact she thinks yoga will solve everything in her universe and of course her little brother is annoying and adorable all at once because he’s four. These things Sam deals with because it is her father who is the biggest embarrassment to her.


Samantha’s dad is an alcoholic. He constantly promises it will be better or he can cut the drinking down to just one drink a day. But like most alcoholics he has to hit rock bottom before he can quit drinking. He does, but unfortunately it is in a big way that affects everyone in the family. Samantha is floundering. It’s hard enough to be a teenager even without the extra family drama added on top. She begins to confide in a stranger by leaving letters in library books. She looks forward to the advice A.J.K. (whoever they are) gives her by slipping notes back into the library books.


The person she least expects to help her turns out to be her biggest supporter. Also, learning her father needs her help makes her want to support him in return.


This is a poignant and well-written story told from a thirteen-year-old’s point of view who just so happens to be struggling with “normal” stuff but also has another real issue. The author has also included resources for kids and teens who might be going through similar kinds of issues.


Andrea King, Cordova Library

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Upcoming Holiday Closing January 18, 2016



All Memphis Public Library locations will be closed for Martin Luther King Jr. birthday on Monday, January 18th 2016

Please visit www.memphislibrary.org to reserve and renew library materials. 


Monday, January 04, 2016

[Book Review] The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Nonfiction/History/Biography

Philip reviews THE WRIGHT BROTHERS by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster, 2015)
From the first chapter to the last, I found David McCullough's account of the lives of the two brothers who changed history by inventing the airplane a fascinating read. McCullough is a gifted writer who does a wonderful job of telling Wilbur and Orville Wright's story.  McCullough includes many passages from the Wrights' letters, diaries and notebooks, as well as passages from letters by their sister Katherine, their father Bishop Milton Wright and from others who knew the famous brothers. So, McCullough often uses Wilbur and Orville's own words, as well as their family members and friends own words, to tell the story of the two fathers of modern aviation.
In an interview published in Air and Space Magazine about The Wright Brothers, McCullough was asked if Wilbur and Orville had notable weaknesses or flaws. He replied that they really did not. They were hard-working, virtuous men. Men of determination and resilience. Though neither man had a college degree both men were geniuses. That the two unassuming bicycle mechanics could accomplish in creating their "flying machines" what human beings over the centuries had only dreamed of, and what many thought impossible, is one of the most remarkable feats in human history.
We learn in the book how important their father Bishop Milton Wright and their sister Katherine were in the brothers's lives. It was their father who fostered an intellectual curiosity in his sons and who provided them access to his great library of books on a wide range of subjects. And it was Katherine who was always there for them, who always encouraged and cared for them, and who they loved dearly.
It is interesting to learn, in the book, that while they read the literature on aviation written by the early aviation pioneers of their day, that an important part of their learning how to fly came from reading about birds and how they fly, and by spending hours observing birds in flight.  They saw that birds have vaulted wings which is what gives them control and balance in flight. This observation led them to do a slight warping of the wings of their flying machines to help them maintain a controlled and balanced flight.
It was also interesting to learn about Charlie Taylor, whose contribution makes him an important figure in the Wright Brothers story and the history of aviation. Taylor was also an unassuming man, a machinist in Dayton, hired by Wilbur and Orville to run their bicycle shop while they conducted their experiments with their flying machines at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was Taylor, after the brothers learned to fly their flying machines and were ready to add a motor to their final one at Kitty Hawk, who built, according to Wilbur and Orville's specifications, a four-cylinder, aluminum cast motor from scratch for it.
And as so many are well aware, on December 17, 1903, the first flight of a heavier than air machine in the history of the world was made by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

Philip Williams, Cordova Library

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

[Book Review] Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Fiction

Josh reviews WONDER by R.J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knof, 2012)


I just finished reading Wonder, and as anyone whom I've spoken with about it over the past week knows, I am truly in love with this book.  Although the book is housed in the children's section of our library, it is a story that I would highly recommend ANYONE to read.
The story is told from the viewpoints of different characters who are revealed over time in the course of the book, starting and finishing with August "Auggie" Pullman, the 10-year-old boy who is the inspiration for the title of the book.  Auggie is entering school for the first time as a fifth-grader, having been homeschooled up until that time by his mother.  The story covers the 10 months from just before the school year begins until the graduation ceremony marking the end of the scholastic year, and describes the ups and downs that this unique middle-school student encounters over that time, as well as the journey that his family and classmates take along with him.
I've waited until now to mention that Auggie suffers from a confluence of genetic abnormalities that have deformed his facial features to a point that he is genuinely frightening to most people upon their first encounter with him.  Palacio never really fully describes what Auggie looks like, but gradually reveals various aspects of his appearance, and you gain most of your understanding of the effect his face has upon others by the way Auggie himself and others describe their reactions when seeing him for the first time.  It's extremely effective.
The book is comprised of short chapters that generally are two or three pages long, and none longer than five pages by my count, and each one is really a short scene that carries the story forward smartly.  Hardly any of the chapters don't make you cry, smile, laugh, or move you in some way.  Ultimately, the book has what we'll call a happy ending, but it really feels genuine in my opinion, not something contrived.  The same is true of the dialogue in the book.  Palacio does an amazing job of creating realistic and believable dialogue in both the children and adults in the story, and every scene comes across as very realistic and believable, which further adds to the emotional impact of the story.
This is the type of book that I could see myself reading again, just to relive the story a second or third time.  A movie is in the works, which I could see being successfully done, but they will have to pick and choose which scenes to include because there are too many to put in a two-hour film!
 
Josh Thomas, Central Library

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

[Book Review] The Universe Within by Neil Shubin

Nonfiction/Geology

Philip reviews THE UNIVERSE WITHIN: DISCOVERING THE COMMON HISTORY OF ROCKS, PLANETS, AND PEOPLE by Neil Shubin (Pantheon Books, 2013)
In The Universe Within, Neil Shubin says that we encounter bodies, rocks, and stars every day of our lives. But he says if we train our eyes each of these entities can reveal deep realities about the nature of our existence and can become "windows to a past that was vast almost beyond comprehension, occasionally catastrophic, and always shared among living things and the universe that fostered them." Inside each of us and inside rocks is the history of the universe, Shubin asserts, and of the events that shaped the natural world and us.
Shubin traces these events in this book. He offers explanations and descriptions of the Big Bang, the formation of the Solar System, the creation of the moon, of the global carbon cycle, of catastrophes that during different periods of the history of the earth have caused mass extinctions of life forms, of plate tectonics, and of other natural events, which have shaped our planet and us. And he does so from the expert view of a scientist but in language comprehensible to the lay reader.
I found the book engrossing and very enjoyable. It is a book dealing with complex scientific subject matters but one that is actually a fast read because of the clarity of Shubin's writing style. It is a profound book because it explains how we can know the reasons why the natural world is as it is and why people are as they are.
I highly recommend this book, as well as Shubin's other book, Your Inner Fish : A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body.
Philip, Cordova Library

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Monday, December 21, 2015

UPCOMING HOLIDAY CLOSINGS FOR CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S DAY




All Memphis Public Library locations will be closed on the following holidays: 

Christmas Eve: Thursday, December 24, 2015
Christmas Day: Friday, December 25, 2015
New Year's Day: Friday January 1, 2016


Customers have the option of reserving or renewing books by going to www.memphislibrary.org or calling 452-2047.

The Library’s website also offers several resources customers can use anytime—24 hours a day—seven days a week. E-books and downloadable audio books can be checked-out for free; online databases contain searchable newspaper and magazine articles, reference books and more; and blogs and newsletters on everything from fiction bestsellers to travel can be read on the web.


Happy Holidays! 





Monday, November 23, 2015

ALL LIBRARY LOCATIONS CLOSED NOVEMBER 26-27 FOR THANKSGIVING




All locations of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be closed Thursday, November 26th, AND Friday, November 27th for Thanksgiving. 

Customers have the option of  reserving or renewing books by going to www.memphislibrary.org or calling 452-2047. The Library’s website also offers several resources customers can use anytime—24 hours a day—seven days a week.   E-books and downloadable audio books can be checked-out for free; online databases contain searchable newspaper and magazine articles, reference books and more; and blogs and newsletters on everything from fiction bestsellers to travel can be read on the web.


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