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Literature and Fiction Review – Still Alice

October 2nd, 2018

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Review Vicky T. (VickyJo)

The fact that I recommend books to people inspires some folks to recommend books right back at me. I love this, actually, because as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t possibly live long enough to read everything that I would like to…so recommendations are always helpful.

Not too long ago, I had a friend come into the library and return the book “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. My friend said, “You have GOT to read this one.” “Oh, thanks…I will!” I promised…and then I took a closer look at the book. This is a novel about Alice Howland, a highly respected professor of psychology at Harvard who, just before her 50th birthday, is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Ugh. How depressing is that? First of all, I’m just over 60. I forget things all the time. I really don’t need to read this. So I very unobtrusively slipped it back on the shelf.

Of course, a few weeks later, this same friend asked me if I’d read “Still Alice” yet. I really can’t lie well at all, and so I confessed that, no, I hadn’t. “It sounds too depressing.” “It’s NOT,” she insisted. “Try it.” So okay, I took the book home. It might not be that bad. And maybe I’ll pick up some tips on Early Onset Alzheimer’s for my own personal use, you know?

Well, you guessed it: I loved this book. The author is actually a neuroscientist at Harvard, so she not only knows what she’s talking about, but she explains the progression of this disease very clearly and concisely. At the same time, she doesn’t turn the novel into a lecture. Rather, she examines the causes and effects of EOAD, how it impacts not only the patients, but their families as well. She does a remarkable job of showing us Alzheimer’s from the inside…from the patient’s point of view.

Alice begins forgetting things; she searches for words, for her Blackberry, for her car keys. But when she becomes totally disoriented while out jogging one day, she knows this is more than being too busy, or just distracted, or the onset of menopause. Her doctor confirms the seriousness of her forgetfulness. The book spans three years, from September 2002 to September 2005. During this time, this disease robs Alice of so many things. She tries to hide it, but eventually she announces that she has Alzheimer’s and resigns her job. She must stop teaching, stop mentoring students; she cannot jog alone anymore, let alone travel to conferences all over the world the way she used to. She watches her husband grieve for her, even though she’s still right there. She sees the fear in her grown children as they wonder about the genetics of EOAD, and if they too will be afflicted. She creates a test for herself to take every so often. She composes five questions, such as “What is your address?” and “When is your daughter’s birthday?” At the end of the test, she instructs her future self, “If you can’t answer these questions, go to the bedside table. There is a bottle of pills there. Take all of them.” Alice can’t imagine having her family deal with her as the disease progresses, and so she decides suicide might be the best way to handle her illness, and spare her family. But, due to the nature of this heartbreaking disease, even this little safeguard won’t work. Alice eventually forgets to take the test.

If you have a loved one that has Alzheimer’s, I strongly recommend you read this book. I watched my grandmother go through this about 20 years ago, and I wish I could have read it back then. It’s not depressing, which surprised me, but it does have incredibly touching moments. I’m so glad I took a chance on “Still Alice.” And it also made me feel a bit better about not remembering where I put my car keys; the author explains ordinary forgetfulness as opposed to Alzheimer’s, and I’m happy to say, I’m doing okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

October 1st, 2018

 

 

The Winner of the brand-new copy of

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow  is:

 

Jane M. (broomhilda222)

 

Congratulations, your book will be on the way to you soon!

 

Thank you to everyone who commented on the Blog!

 

Free Book Friday! A House Divided

September 28th, 2018

 

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow

Corbin Gage can stand up to anyone . . . But his own divided house will bring him to his knees. — Corbin, a longtime legal champion for the downtrodden, is slowly drinking himself into the grave. His love for “mountain water” has cost him his marriage to the godliest woman he knows, ruined his relationship with his daughter, Roxy, and reduced the business at his small Georgia law firm to a level where he can barely keep the bill collectors at bay. But it isn’t until his son, Ray, threatens to limit Corbin’s time with his grandson that Corbin begins to acknowledge he might have a problem.

Despite the mess that surrounds his personal life and against the advice of everyone he knows, Corbin takes on a high-stakes tort case on behalf of two boys who have contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to an alleged chemical exposure. The defendant, a fertilizer company, is the largest employer in the area. The lawsuit becomes a tornado that sucks Corbin, Ray, and Roxy into an increasingly deadly vortex. Equally intense pressure within the family threatens to destroy, once and for all, the thin threads that connect them.

Corbin must find the strength to stand up to his personal demons. Justice for two dying boys depends on it . . . his family depends on it.

ISBN 9781401688882, Paperback

There are currently 3 Members wishing for this book. 1 lucky member will win a brand-new copy.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

 

 

Banned Book Week – How many have you read?

September 27th, 2018

Below is a partial list of banned and challenged books, compiled by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The ALA cites Robert P. Doyle in his book Banned Books, “at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts”.

Many of the books on this list have been swapped by our members; some thousands of times. Which banned or challenged books have you read?

 

 

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger

 

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

 

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

 

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

 

Ulysses, by James Joyce

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

1984, by George Orwell

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

 

 

To see the entire list, you can visit the ALA’s website at this link:

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics

 

 

 

Non-Fiction Review – Blind Descent

September 25th, 2018

 

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

by James M. Tabor

Review Vicky T. (VickyJo)

 

Space—the Final Frontier. All you Star Trek fans will remember that spine-tingling phrase. But guess what: Turns out, space is NOT the final frontier. In reality, the final frontier is the Center of the Earth.

Long after every other ultimate goal had been achieved—both North and South Poles reached by 1911, Mount Everest scaled in 1953, the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the oceans, reached in 1960, the moon in 1969—the deepest cave on Earth was still undiscovered. In fact, as late as 2000, the “supercave” had not yet been found, despite numerous attempts. “Blind Descent” by James M. Tabor tells the story of two men, both driven to find and map the deepest cave on Earth, the teams they lead, and the triumphs and tragedies that befall them both.

The author begins the first section of the book by introducing us to Bill Stone, an American caver and entrepreneur who has been searching for The Supercave since the 1970’s. Tabor tells us about Bill Stone’s early years, how he became interested in caves, and the various teams he has pulled together over the years in an attempt to discover the deepest cave, the elusive Supercave. Stone, a type A personality that others either love or hate, is in his mid-50’s by the year 2004. He is convinced that a cave in Mexico called CHAY-vay will turn out to be the Supercave he’s been searching for.

Then we meet Bill Stone’s biggest rival in the caving world: Ukrainian caver Alexander Klimchouk. Oddly enough, Klimchouk seems to be Stone’s polar opposite. Stone is bold, brash, and commanding while Klimchouk is quiet, self-effacing and modest. Stone is tall and muscular while Klimchouk is short and slight. Klimchouk has been married to his wife for decades, while Stone is divorced and has had a series of relationships. But, Tabor points out “They are alike in two key ways: both are scientists and explorers…willing to risk everything, including their lives and those of others, for the ultimate discovery.” Alexander Klimchouk is also in his mid-50’s by 2004, and he believes the Supercave is in the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union, a cave called Krubera.

Blind Descent details the race between these two men, half a world apart, but united by a common passion. Caving on a good day can be a dangerous sport; exploring supercaves can be incredibly deadly. Not only are you basically climbing mountains in reverse, but the hardest part, the ascent, comes last. Cavers spend weeks underground, camping in the dark under less than ideal conditions. Diving is also a common requirement, compounding the dangers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can honestly say that I have found yet another sport that I will never attempt. And I won’t tell you which caver wins this competition; you’ll have to read the book to find out.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Angry Mourner

September 24th, 2018

The Case of the Angry Mourner

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

One of the upsides of reading Perry Mason novels is that they can be read in only about three or four hours. So even if the plot is far-fetched, any reader who likes Perry, Della, and Paul stories can put up with unlikely happenings for a couple of hours.

Another plus is despite the fact that Gardner doesn’t develop characters beyond a bare minimum, even minor figures are easy to keep track of because, like in mystery plays or Pilgrim’s Progress, a character is associated with a memorable trait. Distinctive passé names aid memory too: independent Carlotta, callow Harvey, haughty Dexter, and preening Darwin.

Another standby in the Mason novels is that clients handle the truth economically with Perry. When a rich wolf, Arthur Cushing, is murdered, Belle Adrian fears her daughter Carlotta, a pretty baa-lamb, resisted the wolf’s advances with a little too much force. Carlotta, in turn, suspects her dear old mam as the defender of her daughter’s honor, interfering and yet endearing as a mom-murderess. Belle fails to help her own cause when she not only tries to destroy all evidence of her daughter’s potential involvement in the crime but she also lies to Perry about doing so.

All in all, this mystery is worth reading, with the caution to hard-core fans of Perry, Della, and Paul that Perry and Pals don’t show up until the fourth chapter. One thing about Gardner too is that he wasn’t afraid of dealing with hard issues – like date-rape – in 1951.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

September 23rd, 2018

 

 

The Winner of the brand-new copy of

Dirty Magic
by Jaye Wells is:

 

 

Nancy M. (nmosher)

Congratulations, your book will be on the way to you soon!

 

Thank you to everyone who commented on the Blog!