Monday, September 18, 2017

October 2017: Don't Say Anything to Anybody

For October, I've picked our friend's book, "Don't Say Anything to Anybody." Anika Hanisch  co-authored this memoir with a woman who grew up in Germany during World War 2. Anika attended Bethel College with Julie, Amy and I.

As Amy mentioned earlier this year, Anika and her fellow author Brigitte Z. Yearman lauched a  kickstarter campaign to get this book in print. Amy had the privilege of being one of the beta readers. They had interest from publishers but nobody was willing to sign on the dotted line. Among the comments they've received is that people are not interested in hearing a woman's story of WW2, The readers of WW2 memoirs are primarily men, and publishers are not willing to take the risk.

"This is the reason they've turned to a kickstarter campaign.They are telling a new story to a wider audience. This is a novel for everyone. It's a fresh story that hasn't been told before. It has a broader appeal than traditional audiences of WW2 memoirs. And it's appeal definitely goes beyond educational, historical, and therapeutic communities, though that's what you'll read about in the kickstarter. One of the things that I think it's important to note about this book is that it's written like a novel. It isn't a history book, not a textbook. It's beautifully written and draws the reader into the story, just like any good novel. Knowing that it is a true story makes it that much more powerful."

The book is not available in libraries yet, but you can order it online at Amazon by clicking here. Several of us also contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and have copies.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Countless World War II memoirs have been written, but few offer the German civilian perspective. Brigitte Z. Yearman’s evocative survival memoir provides that fresh voice.

Young Brigitte knows nothing of the politics of war. All she knows is that the conflict has separated her from her family and taken her father away to fight. When her hometown becomes a bombing target, Brigitte is transported to the rural town of Seidel. Her foster family openly opposes the Nazi regime, but when the war ends, that isn’t enough to save them from new troubles brought by Allied troops. Russian soldiers and Polish settlers occupy Seidel, and Brigitte and her foster family are forced to leave.

As refugees they embark on a harrowing life-or-death journey to safety in West Germany. Brigitte is determined to find and restore whatever is left of her biological family. That quest will forever change her understanding of home, peace, and personal identity.

This tale of courage and compassion tells a poignant story about a resilient and resourceful girl coming of age during extremely troubled times. Along the way, she must learn to balance her longing for restoration with an acknowledgment that some wounds never heal.

Anika and Brigitte in Germany to fact-check in 2012.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
As a German child, Brigitte Yearman survived World War II, Russian military occupation, the refugee experience, and harsh reconstruction years. Her memoir recounts her journey of survival and how she came to learn about the Holocaust and the frightening realities in her country’s recent history.

Later as a young woman, Brigitte met and married an American soldier. They moved to the United States where they raised four daughters. After her husband passed away in 2006, Brigitte moved to Montana to be closer to one of her adult daughters. She still lives in Montana with her partner, Frank, who encouraged her throughout the memoir-writing process.

Anika Hanisch has worked as a freelance writer, ghostwriter, editor, and author coach for over fifteen years. She co-writes both instructional and narrative non-fiction and also coaches fiction authors. Her own writing has appeared in several national and regional magazines including Guideposts and Montana Quarterly.

Brigitte as a child.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ready Player One book discussion questions

From LitLovers.com

Discussion Questions
1. The OASIS becomes a part of daily life for users around the globe. What virtual realms (Google, Facebook, iCloud) do you depend on? What is at stake in the war against IOI, the internet service provider that wants to overturn Halliday’s affordable, open-source approach? Is it dangerous to mix profit and dependence on technology?

2. Explore the question of identity raised in the novel. What do the characters’ avatars tell us about their desires and their insecurities? In reality, does our physical appearance give false clues about who we really are? How does Parzival, transformed into a celebrity gunter, become Wade’s true self?

3. With a narrator who vividly captures the human experience, Ready Player One delivers a world that is easy for us to imagine. In the novel, what was at the root of the grim downturn for Earth’s inhabitants? Could your community start looking like the stacks by the year 2044?

4. How does love affect Wade’s rational mind? Would you have given Art3mis the tip about playing on the left side to defeat the lich (page 99, chapter ten)? Did you predict that she would turn out to be a friend or a foe?

5. How does public school in the OASIS compare to your experience in school? Has author Ernest Cline created a solution to classroom overcrowding, student apathy, and school violence?

6. In his Columbus bunker, Wade puts on so many pounds that he can no longer fit comfortably in his haptic chair. How would you fare in his weight-loss program, described in chapter nineteen, featuring a simulation gym, coaching from Max, and a lockout system that restricts his diet and forces him to exercise?

7. Wade’s OASIS pass phrase is revealed on page 199, at the end of chapter nineteen: “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” What does this philosophy mean to him at that point in his life?

8. How is the novel shaped by the 1980s backdrop, featuring John Hughes films, suburban shows like Family Ties, a techno-beat soundtrack, and of course, a slew of early video games? Did Halliday grow up in a utopia?

9. Discuss Bryce Lynch’s financial situation, rigged so that Wade could infiltrate IOI. When does Wade become willing to “die trying”? How did you react to the image of debtors being forced into indentured servitude?

10. Wade doesn’t depend on religion to make moral decisions or overcome life-threatening challenges. What does the novel say about humanity’s relationship to religion? What sort of god is Halliday, creator of the OASIS universe?

11. Despite their introverted nature, the book’s characters thrive on friendship. Discuss the level of trust enjoyed by Halliday and Og, and among Wade, Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto. How is true power achieved in Ready Player One?

12. In the closing scenes, Halliday’s reward proves to be greater than mere wealth. What is Halliday’s ultimate prize? How did the rules of Halliday’s game help him determine the type of player who would likely win?

13. In his quest for the three keys, Wade is required to inhabit many imaginary worlds, including movies, video games, and a simulation of Halliday’s childhood home. Which of these virtual realities appealed to you the most? What sort of virtual reality is provided by a novel?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

September 2017: Ready Player One

Kevira's first book choice for us is "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline.

ABOUT THE BOOK
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

   But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


ERNEST CLINE has worked as a short-order cook, fish gutter, plasma donor, elitist video store clerk, and tech support drone. His primary occupation, however, has always been geeking out, and he eventually threw aside those other promising career paths to express his love of pop culture fulltime as a spoken word artist and screenwriter. His 2009 film" Fanboys," much to his surprise, became a cult phenomenon. These days Ernie lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, their daughter, and a large collection of classic video games. READY PLAYER ONEis his first novel." 

July 2017: Strangers Drowning

Liz's pick for July 2017 is "Strangers Drowning: Impossible idealism, drastic choices,  and the urge to help" by Larissa MacFarquhar. It was released in September 2016.

ABOUT THE BOOK

What does it mean to devote yourself wholly to helping others? In Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar seeks out people living lives of extreme ethical commitment and tells their deeply intimate stories; their stubborn integrity and their compromises; their bravery and their recklessness; their joys and defeats and wrenching dilemmas.

A couple adopts two children in distress. But then they think: If they can change two lives, why not four? Or ten? They adopt twenty. But how do they weigh the needs of unknown children in distress against the needs of the children they already have?

Another couple founds a leprosy colony in the wilderness in India, living in huts with no walls, knowing that their two small children may contract leprosy or be eaten by panthers. The children survive. But what if they hadn’t? How would their parents’ risk have been judged?

A woman believes that if she spends money on herself, rather than donate it to buy life-saving medicine, then she’s responsible for the deaths that result. She lives on a fraction of her income, but wonders: when is compromise self-indulgence and when is it essential?

We honor such generosity and high ideals; but when we call people do-gooders there is skepticism in it, even hostility. Why do moral people make us uneasy? Between her stories, MacFarquhar threads a lively history of the literature, philosophy, social science, and self-help that have contributed to a deep suspicion of do-gooders in Western culture.

Through its sympathetic and beautifully vivid storytelling, Strangers Drowning confronts us with fundamental questions about what it means to be human. In a world of strangers drowning in need, how much should we help, and how much can we help? Is it right to care for strangers even at the expense of those we are closest to? Moving and provocative, Strangers Drowning challenges us to think about what we value most, and why.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Larissa MacFarquhar is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. Her profile subjects have included Barack Obama, the novelist Hilary Mantel, the poet John Ashbery, the philosopher Derek Parfit, and the internet icon Aaron Swartz, among many others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. In the spring of 2016 she will be teaching in the creative writing department at Stanford University.  
CHECK OUT THIS NPR/TED INTERVIEW:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

August 2017: The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Susan's first book pick for us in August 2017 is "The Nest" by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.

ABOUT THE BOOK
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.
Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

A LITTLE MORE...
An Amazon Best Book of March 2016: The Nest is a debut novel about a dysfunctional New York family. That’s a pretty common subject for a novel and not very interesting in itself. But there’s magic that happens when you pick up a book, start reading and realize that what the author has chosen to write about—the places, the characters, the dialogue, the set pieces—they’re all just right. That’s how I felt reading this book. The Nest is not populated with characters who are entirely lovable, but I felt each was uniquely human and identifiable, and I especially wanted to know where life would take the four 40-something Plumb family siblings (particularly that rapscallion Leo). Some will take issue with the Plumbs and their upper middle class problems. Some will detest Leo and his family and find harsher descriptions than “rapscallion.” But for my money, The Nest is a great read. This book will be among my favorites of 2016, as I suspect it will be for many readers. --Chris Schluep


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the New York Times bestselling author of The Nest, which has been translated into more than 25 languages and optioned for film by Amazon Studios with Sweeney writing the adaptation. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

June 2017: The Letter by Katherine Hughes

Julie has selected "The Letter" by Katherine Hughes as our June 2017 book! The Kindle version is currently only $1.99 on Amazon.


ABOUT THE BOOK
Tina Craig longs to escape her violent husband. She works all the hours God sends to save up enough money to leave him, also volunteering in a charity shop to avoid her unhappy home. Whilst going through the pockets of a second-hand suit, she comes across an old letter, the envelope firmly sealed and unfranked. Tina opens the letter and reads it - a decision that will alter the course of her life for ever...

Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but hopes he can put things right. On 4th September 1939 he sits down to write the letter he hopes will change his future. It does - in more ways than he can ever imagine...

The Letter tells the story of two women, born decades apart, whose paths are destined to cross and how one woman's devastation leads to the other's salvation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathryn Hughes was born in Altrincham, near Manchester. After completing a secretarial course, Kathryn met her husband and they married in Canada. For twenty-nine years they ran a business together, raised two children and travelled when they could to places such as India, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. Kathryn and her family now make their home in a village near Manchester. The Letter is Kathryn's first novel, and she is busy working on her second, The Secret.