Redeployment by Phil Klay

redeploymentGerman philosophy Peter Sloterdijk talks about books as “thick letters to friends.”  Phil Klay mentions this in his acceptance speech for winner the recent National Book Award winning title for Redeployment.  Drawing from the front line of serving in the Marines during a 13 month deployment, Klay follows the life of one soldier on the front lines serving with his troop and the daily routine of survival in the Anbar Province where the Islamic State is attempting to takeover currently. Filled with grit, laughter, sadness, and contemplation, this work lured me in to keep on reading in attempting to understand how one individual attempts to resettle after being deployed in to another country.

Readers, who may suspect the story being filled with horrid violent scenes and moments of combat, will be disappointed as the real battle not only exists amongst the time away from the United States but in answering the question of “Who am I as a human being?”  While listening to book in my vehicle and having to keep it for a longer than the average 2-3 weeks, I contemplated on what personal challenges have I dealt with where the soldier survived to tell.

Formats Available:  Large Type, Audiobook, Regular Print, Book Discussion Kit, and Downloadable EBook.

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

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If this title pleasures your literary mind, here are some titles similar in first person point of view and military orientation that you can check out from the Library.

the things they carriedYellow Birds

 

Facing Adversity: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

 

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“Let me embrace thee, sour Adversity
For wise men say it is the wisest course.”
– King Henry, Henry VI, Part Three, Act III, Scene I, William Shakespeare

Have you at any time considered your conduct should the thing you most value be taken from you, a loss that would throw in to doubt both present and future? Whether you have or not, please take a moment to carefully ponder this notion. What is it you imagine, I wonder? Bitterness, hope, resentment, or religiosity? No matter our station in life, one thing is certain: we will at some point encounter adversity, and it is at this moment that our true nature is revealed.

It is just such a scenario faced by the protagonist of Gabrielle Zevin’s latest work of fiction, A.J. Fikry, who is the young proprietor of a small business located in a charming purple Victorian cottage whose front porch sign invites:

ISLAND BOOKS
Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999
No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World

From the start, it seems clear what A.J.’s choice is. However, fate has a way of thwarting the most carefully laid of plans, and A.J. finds himself with a unique challenge when returning from a run he discovers a baby girl alone among the few children’s picture books he stocks.

As the story progresses, the reader is drawn into the small community on Alice Island, a simple ferry ride from the coast of Massachusetts. Plagued in the past by slow traffic, business begins to increase due to the sudden youthful addition to Island Books, allowing A.J. the opportunity to share his literary expertise and to affect the lives of his fellow islanders through the power of literature.

A.J., a non-native of the island, was once considered an outsider and now finds himself creating connections and finding an acceptance that was previously neither sought nor bestowed. Book discussion groups multiply at the bookshop, with the local police chief’s, named the Chief’s Choice, becoming especially popular. A.J. navigates a variety of sticky situations, from a visit by an drunken author/Santa Claus impersonator to a sister-in-law married to a local celebrity infamous for his philandering, all the while admirably playing the hand that he was dealt.

Ms. Zevin has written an engaging book that presents the reader with an investigation of that very old concept of adversity and the role that fate can play, all through the framework of a very believable character, A.J., a person who, when first encountered, appears an unremarkable curmudgeon, but, in the end, is quite the opposite.

come on, sweetheart
let’s adore one another
before there is no more
of you and me”

– Rumi (Epigraph of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), eBook, Audiobook (CD)

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Ghosts By Daylight: Love, War and Redemption

Until I read Janine Di Giovanni’Ghosts By Daylight: Love, War and Redemption, I never considered the emotional toll journalists endure to bring us stories from the world’s conflict zones.  It turns out that giving a voice to the voiceless, as Di Giovanni calls her work, carries a heavy price.

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A veteran journalist who currently serves as Middle East editor at Newsweek, Di Giovanni routinely shares first person accounts of wartime suffering and violence that are often difficult to read. After reading her memoir I believe she would say that if she didn’t include details of the abuse the powerful inflict on the powerless, she wouldn’t be doing her job. If you’re hesitant to read about how humans torment other humans in wartime, be assured that Ghosts by Daylight is less about the atrocities of war than it is about how journalists cope with having witnessed them.

In her memoir, Di Giovanni describes her decision in her early 40s to leave her life in war zones behind, at least for awhile, to start a family in Paris with a French war photographer and love of her life. While one would expect her to experience relief at finally getting out of the insecurity of war and into a comfortable Parisian life, the reality is that human beings, like the conflicts we create with each other, are much more complicated. From her apartment in one of Paris’s quietest districts, she describes hoarding food, water, antibiotics and drafting an evacuation plan in case the city was ever under siege. When recounting her actions, she recalls that she never worried about being able to take care of herself, but the idea of being responsible for her infant son in a situation like the ones she has seen in the field gave her overwhelming anxiety.  Di Giovanni never felt afraid when she was dodging snipers in Sarajevo or negotiating with drugged and armed child soldiers in Cote d’Ivoire. Instead the realities and responsibilities of parenthood triggered the debilitating terror for which she had never gotten treatment.

Di Giovanni cites the disproportionate number of war correspondents who experience depression, substance abuse and suicide, all suggestive of untreated PTSD.  Whether symptoms strike at the work site or after returning home, the consequences can be deadly. She describes PTSD manifesting itself in reckless behavior, like her colleague who had once driven around Sniper Alley in Sarajevo with his car spray painted: Don’t waste your bullets; I am immortal.  Attributing her actions to the overconfidence of the survivor, she once argued with a soldier who had a weapon pointed at her heart to let her companion, a rebel who was surely to be executed, go free. After years of running into dangerous situations and not knowing where she would sleep each night, she came home to find that the danger she had evaded in the field felt as close and menacing as ever.

War correspondents make a career of helping us understand what it’s like to live in the absence of safety. Janine Di Giovanni’s memoir of living with PTSD offers a glimpse of how journalists experience that insecurity long after their assignment is over.

I first encountered Janine Di Giovanni’s work in Best American Travel Writing 2014. Her essay on covering the Bosnian War was so engrossing that I pursued her other works, including a piece about Syria in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014. To find her thought-provoking and candid coverage of conflict zones all over the world, search for her name in the library’s EbscoHost Academic Search Complete  database.

Her new book, Seven Days in Syria, is due out this summer.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Valerie, Iroquois Branch

The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee (Builder) Williams

 

 

…I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being comfortable (or having money or property), but instead is linked to a deeper sense of satisfaction—to a sense of humility and gratitude, and a better understanding of who I am in my heart.”  – Dee Williams, The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir

We all have those days that are just overwhelming and make us want to escape for a little while. Whenever the struggle of the daily grind starts to stress me out, I begin to fantasize about selling all my worldly possessions and cramming my life into a tiny house by the sea, or in the mountains…or movable between the two. That’s why I was immediately drawn to The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, by Dee Williams.

When faced with the reality of struggling to exuberantly live while suffering from congestive heart failure, Dee Williams philosophizes on how much lighter our metaphorical loads would be if only we could literally lighten our physical loads. She challenges herself to take control of her life by simplifying her living space through building a tiny house she then transports from her home in Seattle to Olympia, Washington. Williams takes the reader along on her personal journey through an honest portrayal of the challenges and successes she faces as she builds her new home and adjusts to a new life in her friends’ backyard. Through her conversational tone and humorous self reflections she details the realities of her drastic life change, resulting in a really heartfelt memoir. Although this book does not quite prepare the reader to follow her path to pair down your possessions to merely 305 items and commit to living in a structure you’ve created with your own hands, Williams’ story is inspiring and has drastically increased my perusal of tiny house materials available within LFPL.

For further proof that tiny houses can actually be built and inhabited by the average person check out the documentary Tiny: A Story About Living Small. This beautifully rendered independent film is an extremely honest portrayal of the struggles of the physical process of creating a tiny house as well as the interpersonal conflicts of convincing others in your life that this is a worthwhile pursuit.

 

If you’d like to lust after some well-appointed tiny houses in a beautiful, appropriately tiny, coffee table book check out Mimi Zeiger’s Tiny Houses.

 

To see some examples of small houses throughout history, including Henry Thoreau’s cabin, as well as some modern addaptations check out Lester Walker’s Tiny Houses: Designs for 43 Tiny Houses for Getting Away From it All. This book not only includes beautiful photos, but also some historical background and design sketches of each house featured.

If you’d like a bit more exploration of the philosophy behind the “tiny house movement” and logistical considerations for the planning phase of actually building your own tiny house Ryan Mitchell’s Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building & Living Well in Less the 400 Square Feet is a good place to start.

Those brave souls who may actually live the dream and build their own tiny house should consult Jay Schafer’s DIY Book of Backyard Sheds & Tiny Houses: Build Your Own Guest Cottage, Writing Studio, Home Office, Craft Workshop, or Personal Retreat for a glimpse at some practical and executable designs with tons of helpful tips on the actual building process.

 

Format: Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Magen, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch 

 

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

earthgirl

It’s the year 2788.  Through space exploration and terraforming, other worlds now have become home for many humans.  Freedom to travel (“portal”) from one world to another within a cluster of settled planets, each with its own culture and distinctive life styles, have caused prejudices that are hard to overcome.  For those living on Earth, it has become a world that exists for only two reasons.  One is to study our past history in search of knowledge lost during wars, the Exodus, and solar storms that wiped out thousands of databases.  The second is as home to those who are handicapped.

Jarra’s eighteenth year is coming up, she has just completed school and is looking forward to entering college to become an archeologist studying pre-history.   Jarra, an Earthling, is one of the handicapped.  She is what off-worlders call an “ape,” a throw-back.  Because of her faulty immune system, leaving Earth would be a death sentence.  Over the years, vids have been a window into other worlds and their inhabitants.  She has learned the hard way that many “exos,” those who exited Earth for other worlds, see the handicapped as lesser beings.  In turn  Jarra has set up defensive walls and has difficulty overcoming her  hard feelings towards the off-worlders when she has to interact with them.

Since she was eleven Jarra has worked on excavation digs, crumbling ruins of cities left behind hundreds of years ago.  She has gained much knowledge and skills needed to excavate artifacts of old Earth, its history, environment , the ruins left behind.  It will be sorely needed in the months to come.  Jarra is tough, smart and wants to prove that she, an “ape”, is just as good as those who can move freely from one planet to another.  Living and working side by side with a group of “exos” shows Jarra that seeing only one side of a person doesn’t tell the whole story.  This dystopian world has friendship, romance, interplanetary exploration, action and adventure all wrapped up in a burlap sack of tolerance towards others.

Earth Girl gives us some background for this dystopian world and a smattering of what it might be like to search out and live on other worlds.  It’s a coming of age sci-fi tale with characters that can get under your skin and make you wonder what you would do in a particular situation.  It is an older teen book with some sexual content, not graphic, and verbal abuse, name calling mostly.  Conflicts don’t just completely go away but you can see how changes might take place. There is some repetitiveness in the story but it captures teen viewpoints well and points out adults can learn, too, if they take time to talk with teens.  All in all a good read for older teens and some adults.

This is the first in a trilogy, followed up by Earth Star and Earth Flight.

The author, Janet Edwards, has written several short stories about the characters in the books that you might also want to read. They are all free at her website.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Alexander McCall Smith is coming to LFPL

AMS

New York Times bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series

Alexander McCall Smith

Main Library, Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m.

Join author Alexander McCall Smith for a discussion of his latest book Emma—a retelling of Jane Austen’s classic story, with a modern-day twist. #LFPLAuthors

This is a free event, but tickets are required – click here.


Authors at the Library podcast

Miss an author event, or just want to enjoy a presentation again?

Author Events and Book Talks Around Louisville

The List is a service of the Louisville Free Public Library, spotlighting author events for our partner organizations. For more information please email us.

Events are free unless otherwise noted.


MARCH 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 8:30 a.m.: Tom Rath, bestselling author of Strengths Based Leadership and How Full is Your Bucket?  will give a keynote address at the Best of Leadership Summit at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts at 501 W. Main Street. Learn more online or by calling (502) 561-0458.

Thursday, March 19, 7:00 p.m.: Louisville’s own Tania James will read and sign her newest novel, The Tusk That Did the Damage, at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave.  Learn more online or by calling 502-896-6950.

Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 p.m.: The Kentucky Author Forum presents David Boies, author of Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality.  Boies will be interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin is a prominent legal journalist, staff writer for The New Yorker, senior analyst for CNN, and author.  Purchase tickets at the Kentucky Center’s box office or drive-through on Main Street, by calling 502-584-7777 or 800-775-7777, or online.

Thursday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.: Novelist Michelle Latiolais will read from her work in the Bingham Poetry Room, Ekstrom Library as part of the William Axton Reading Series at U of L.  Learn more online or by calling 502-852-6801.

Tuesday, March 31, 7:00 p.m.: Sam Halpern will read and sign his debut novel, A Far Piece to Canaan, at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave.  Learn more online or by calling 502-896-6950.

APRIL 2015

Thursday, April 2, 7:30 p.m.: U of L professor and novelist Paul Griner will read from his work in the Bingham Poetry Room, Ekstrom Library as part of the William Axton Reading Series at U of L. Learn more online or by calling 502-852-6801.

For information about author appearances throughout Kentucky, visit the Kentucky Literary Newsletter.

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Sylvie Davis was a Prima Ballerina.  One step, two steps, then she heard a crunching sound.  Now Sylvie Davis a broken doll.

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It was hard not to be bitter, she would never dance again. And now, Sylvie’s mother was sending her off to her father’s old family home in Alabama to stay with a cousin.  It was for the best she was told, recuperate away from everything she’d lost. The alternative was to be shut away in an institution for drug and alcohol abuse. At least Gigi, her dog, was going with her. What she hadn’t expected to find was the Southern plantation type of home complete with secrets, ghosts, a steel magnolia relative who wasn’t fond of dogs and two guys playing dangerous games, with Sylvie at the center of it all.

At first it was hard not to be cynical. All she wanted was to be left alone. It was Gigi who found the over grown garden with the large blue stone, similar to those at Stonehenge, at its center.  Just what Sylvie needed to take her mind off of herself for a time. As she worked to restore the garden, she began to open her eyes to those around her, including Shawn, the charismatic leader of the Teen Town Council and Rhys, the young Welshman, doing research at an archeological dig nearby. Then she heard the sound of a baby crying, saw a young woman, dressed in old fashioned clothing, running towards the cliff and the cold, the incredible cold that followed.  There was a supernatural power in the earth and what Sylvie didn’t know was that she had the ability to draw it out for good or bad, just as she would have to choose between Shawn and Rhys.

While not a speedy read, the story is in the telling.  This paranormal romance has a mash of history, a few hints at environmental lessons, a splash of magic, a smattering of mystical folklore and a bit of greed. It’s peopled with the good, the slightly self-interested and finally those who will find their way in the end. Puzzling out how it all fits together can be fun in itself. You won’t find all the answers, for some of the story you can simply fill in the blanks. However, if you are looking for a rainy day read, this one can while away the hours with a bit of Southern charm, romance in the air and a touch of magic.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

pandianWhile I’m not usually a mystery reader, this book caught my attention because of its beautiful cover. After reading the back, it seemed to be almost a mystery/science fiction crossover. The story begins by introducing us to Zoe Faust who is a 300 year old accidental alchemist. She has lived on the road for most of her years, and if finally settling down in a fixer upper in a quaint small town. When unpacking her items in her new house, she finds that she has brought along a gargoyle named Dorian that is seeking her help. He not only speaks many languages, but happens to be an excellent French chef. Dorian needs Zoe’s help in making sure that he remains alive with a mysterious alchemy book that he has brought along with him.

The antics begin when Zoe comes home from a walk to find not only Dorian’s book missing, but a dead contractor on her front step. This brings Detective Liu to her door and the wayward youth Brixton to help along the way. Zoe is still trying to determine at this point whether Dorian may have had a hand in the murder, but eventually realizes him to be an ally in their investigation.

This story could be very entertaining, but seems to fall short in its storytelling. The author reminds the reader of key points multiple times within the storyline, and it becomes exhausting at some points for the reader. Also even though we know Zoe is 300 years old, she for the most part behaves and thinks like your normal twenty year old.  Even though the story did have multiple shortcomings, I did continue it through to the end because I was interested to see who had stolen the books and committed the murder. This may be a good pick for food mystery lovers, and there is even a bonus section in the appendix of recipes mentioned in the book. This book had all the pieces but just failed to connect them into a successful mystery.

Formats available: Book, E-book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

The Mockingbird Next Door

Interest piqued by the recent announcement that American literary legend Harper Lee will be publishing a new novel? Want to know what the author of one of the most widely read books in America has been doing for the past 50+ years? Marja MillsThe Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee is just about the only option you have, but fortunately it’s an excellent one.

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Lee, who was last in the public eye in the mid-1960s, has eschewed numerous opportunities to be recognized for her literary masterpiece, a book that helped fuel the progress of Civil Rights era reforms and whose hero, small town attorney Atticus Finch, continues to inspire readers today. Her motivations, as outlined by Mills, are certainly relatable: a desire to protect her own privacy and of those she loves; a distrust of those wishing to capitalize on her opus; and a general distaste for constantly being in the spotlight.

When writing Harper Lee’s biography, journalist Mills had to work hard to gain the author’s trust. The Chicago Tribune writer moved to Monroeville, AL with the intention of getting a few interviews and slowly developed earnest friendships with both Lee and her sister. Why did Lee lift the veil on her life now, why not live the rest of her days enjoying her privacy? Mills offers a few explanations. First, she wanted to have the story of the Lee family told by someone she trusted. Second, she wanted to set the record straight on a few things, namely any controversy that remains over who actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird (Truman Capote, Lee’s childhood friend, had once claimed credit) and some allegations levied by Capote regarding Lee’s mother. Lee and Capote’s friendship had a long history and had even blossomed into a professional collaboration when she traveled to Kansas with him in the early 1960s to do research for what would later become In Cold Blood. The pain of betrayal Lee experienced with Capote is palpable in Mills’ pages.

So how does (Nelle) Harper Lee spend her days? For much of her adult life she spent half of her year in New York, where she enjoyed anonymity and the cultural offerings of a great city. The other half she spent in her hometown in Alabama, hanging out with friends and her beloved sister Alice, who in her 90s was still practicing law and being recognized for her work in social causes. Mills makes Lee’s days of fishing, storytelling and visiting cemeteries in her corner of Alabama sound as stimulating as her days in NYC must have been.

Mills’ unauthorized biography of Lee paints a picture of a woman true to herself and her values, who had to struggle against renown in order to live the life she wanted. The author maintains a professional detachment in reporting her story and spent enough time with Lee to know her as a person, not simply a literary legend.

Still, she confesses to occasionally feeling starstruck during those moments in Lee’s company when she realized, “Oh my god, I’m fishing/visiting/shopping for groceries with Harper Lee!” Dearest to the biographer’s heart were their morning coffee dates at Mills’ kitchen table, commenced by the phone ringing and Harper Lee’s voice on the other end saying, “Hi hon. You pourin’?”

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print and Large Type), eBook

Reviewed by Valerie, Iroquois Branch