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 Just Mercy series is happening at the Georgetown Library. Here is what the publicity says: Last night I attended the first discussion of a series of 4 discussions of Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson, held at Georgetown Public Library as part of Georgetown Reads. Over FIFTY attended (we had to move to a larger room).

The series continues each of the NEXT THREE WEDNESDAYS. You do not need to have read the book to attend (although I hope you read it at some point).

You can also hear Bryan Stephenson speak - at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin at 7pm on Monday, February 22nd, so I expect the final Wednesday (24th) to include a recap from those who hear him speak (I will go if I find a carpool).

It was obvious that every attendee last night was moved by the conversation with so many bright and like-minded people, as we discussed the state of our criminal justice system, including local government. And most expressed feeling a call to action.


As an introduction to Bryan Stephenson, here is a link to his TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice?language=en#t-1239160



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Too Close to the Falls

What a cleverly named book! The star of this refreshing autobiographical book of episodic chapters, Catherine Gildiner, ventured too close to Niagara falls in the fifth and final chapters. In the chapter called "ice,"  at approximately 7 years of age, the author followed the example of some boys and sledded down a "straight drop that was solid ice," which was the gorge of the Niagara Escarpment, to land unhurt but close to the Niagara River, where she could hear the cold water babbling under the ice. In the last chapter, somewhat under the influence of more than enough of her first carafe of wine, she went outside to an outdoor deck of the restaurant overlooking Niagara falls, and she went down some stairs toward the gorge below and got dizzy and almost fell.

The book took Cathy from age 4 to age 12; and Jay, who nominated and presented the book, took us from beginning to end with a series of questions that were fun to think about. Example: Describe Cathy. I couldn't get everyone's name, but from the group's offerings, I wrote down "precocious, intelligent, and had a wry sense of humor." Another example: What were the skills Cathy used at her job at the pharmacy, starting at age 4? Answers: Reading, packing, running the car, lighting cigarettes, reading maps, talking with customers, being non-judgmental, and being non-racist.

Book club members shared childhood memories after answers to Jay's questions were given. This made the questions even more fun. Such questions as, "Was there some loss of innocence in the story?" and "Was the Catholic school in the book too restrictive?" brought answers such as the story of finding out about Santa Claus when one's father suggested a fire in the fireplace on Christmas eve, overhearing one's parents discussing one's IQ and comparing it to one's brother's, and noticing that the kids who had been in Catholic school until they were 13 and then joined the mainstream school tended to be wild.

Several members noted that the story reminded them of the book we discussed at our holiday party several years ago, Wishin' & Hopin', by Wally Lamb.

Too Close to the Falls was a delightful book, though it got a little darker as Cathy became a teenager. The author's next 2 memoirs cover her young adult and adult life and promise the reader many happy hours with Cathy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Buzz 2016 at Round Rock Public Library

I'm looking forward to February's Ellis Island discussion but also wanted to get the word out: registration is now open for Book Buzz 2016:  Discovering New Stars, at Round Rock Public Library.  The event will be Tuesday, February 9 at 7:00 P.M.

This Buzz will be very much like last year's: attendees will hear the inside scoop on forthcoming books from our Penguin Random House rep--and everyone will get a free "Keep Calm and Read On" tote bag and a pre-publication sampler book.  We'll also have refreshments (I understand that the cheesecake will be back by popular demand) and drawings for door prizes.

You can register online here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-buzz-discovering-new-stars-tickets-20624650886 (the link is also on the library's Facebook page).  Or, if you'd rather, call the reference desk at 512.218.7000 and we can complete the registration for you.  Hope to see many of you there!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

We Have a Great Party, and The True Story of a Whale's Attack on the Whaleship Essex Presents the History of Whaling

The Round Rock Book Discussion Group had a wonderful holiday party at Pam's house! We had a delicious meal contributed by all of us and we had a great discussion of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Happy holidays to all!

Seeing the movie of the book, In the Heart of the Sea, helped me to visualize the ships and the whales, and the whale attacking the ship. The point of view of the movie differed from that of the book, but the historical details were evident in both. Some of the characters who were in Nantucket and on the ship during the story are still alive. Someone at our meeting said that there are still whales swimming in the ocean that have harpoon remnants attached to them from the time of the story. The whaling industry has changed, from more modern ships that make everything easier to whale protection laws. Our reading adventure, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick, took place at the height of the whaling industry in the United States and the world and perhaps at its apex, though these would be best measured more by the commitment and effort needed for whaling rather than the number of whales killed.

Priscilla, who had found this true adventure story for us, led the discussion with a series of questions that were thought-provoking. One example was the question, "Why did survivors avoid landing on the Pacific Islands? Answers included that the reputation of these islands involved cannibals living there. Pam suggested that the sailors were less afraid of the sea than of the Islanders. Ken said that the range of whale hunting had been expanding at the time of the story, so by then people who were invested in the whaling industry or living on the islands had invented rumors to keep random hunters away. And, he added, what would gather fear of the islands more than a group of men together in a boat for many weeks swapping sea (and island) stories? Jan suggested that the captains didn't want to appear timid, so they commanded that the ships continue toward their destinations rather than stopping at the islands for food and relaxation.

A big question presented by the book was, Why did the whale attack the ship? Marcia felt that since whales are smart, the whale was reacting to seeing it's friends and relatives attacked and hurt. Carla recalled that the first mate on the ship, Owen Chase, had been on board hitting boards with a hammer, repairing the ship and lifeboats. She said that the reverberations of the hammer might have resembled whale sounds and incited the whale to attack the ship as it would attack another whale or group of males. Kathleen told a story about animals adapting to odd situations and knowing when to hide and when to attack. Marla added that the whale females tended to stay in groups, and that one job of the males was to protect them. The males might have seen the ship as a whale and might have attacked it to protect the pod of female whales. Regardless, said Carla and Cindy T; the ship was old and falling apart, which was part of why the men were fixing it. Had the ship been newer and in better condition, it might have withstood the whale attack better and not sunk.

Other questions addressed the comparative qualifications of Captain Pollard and first mate Chase, and whether it would have been better to stay on Henderson Island or to sail away, and why the townspeople were silent when the remaining crew finally arrived at Nantucket. Further discussion centered around whale conservation versus possible extinction. There are movements to discourage the consumption of whale products, especially as food. The sperm whale population is currently considered to be "vulnerable" rather than "endangered," thanks to the International Whaling commission enacting conservation laws in the 1980s, but many whales before and since have fallen to consumption.

This was a real and true survival story, complete with such sea hardships as sinking ships, severe hunger and thirst, hot sun and freezing winter, winds blowing ships off course until they were lost, food rationing to a piece or less of hardtack per day and very little or no water, times of gorging on fish or birds only to bring on severe thirst and depletion of the animal populations, men becoming extremely weak and dying, and, of course, cannibalism. Along with the deprivations of whaling were the odors of the sea, such a dead whales. In the 1990s, some Nantucketers tried to create a museum and put a whale specimen in it. The whale specimen smelled too strongly to be contained, and the bones are supposedly still exuding oil to this day.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Club Meeting, 19 Oct. 2015

Some announcements: The Texas Book Festival was another big success, with over 300 authors and good weather. Amanda Eyre Ward will be speaking at Georgetown Library. At the Round Rock Library there will be a Literary Matters Trivia Night (Tuesday, November 10th, 7 PM) and the First Annual Literary Festival (Saturday, Nov. 14th, from 1 to 5). Carol will nominate in December (for February), and Patty will nominate in January (for March).

Before Cindy T. led the discussion of The Martian, Jay nominated for the book we will discuss in January. We chose Too Close to the Falls, by Catherine Gildiner, a memoir of her growing up near Niagara NY, covering her life from age 4 to 12, during which she helped in her Dad's pharmacy and delivered drugs to his customers (including Marilyn Monroe's sleeping pills). Jay also recommends Gildiner's subsequent memoirs, After the Falls (ages 12-21) and Coming Ashore (in her 20's). Books nominated but not chosen were Richard Russo's The Risk Pool (a novel about the father he never knew), and Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us (a novel about how non-Jews dealt with the Holocaust). Frank will be getting in copies of Too Close to the Falls for us, and some of her later books if we want to continue reading the compelling memoirs about her life.

The Martian

Nearly everyone had read the book, and most had seen the movie too. One liked the book best, one the movie, but most enjoyed both about the same. An interesting development path in Andy Weir's creation of the book: blog first, then Kindle story, then book, then movie. (Next, the Holodeck version) Growing up, he enjoyed Robert Heinlein, especially Tunnel in the Sky, a 1955 Heinlein juvenile with a survival on another planet plot. He is also a fan of Dr Who (who isn't?). Cindy brought her display boards and illustrations, but couldn't resist starting with a pop quiz on acronyms. We decided the most ingenious solutions in the book were growing potatoes (note the spelling, Quayle) and making water. There was some discussion of differences between the book and the movie. And apparently, in spite of the scientific basis of most things in the book, dust storms like that don't happen in the thin atmosphere of Mars. Most unbelievable part of the book? The cooperation between government agencies. We gave examples of some of the funny things Mark says in the course of his adventure. The consensus for the most surprising thing in the book is that [spoiler] Mark survived, though also mentioned were the sublimation of LCDs under low atmospheric pressure and the idea the people could survive for long in the radiation that strikes Mars. We concluded by wondering why there is not a political will to spend more on space development and exploration by the United States.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What a great author visit.  Linda really is right that Taylor Stevens is a great speaker.  I hope everyone enjoyed the meeting as much as I did.
I think most of us knew before the meeting that she grew up in a cult and didn't have any formal education past the sixth grade.  When she finally left the cult it was really a coin toss for her husband and herself to decide who would go to work and who would stay home to take care of children.  She shopped at garage sales for household items and clothing and also bought things, including books, to sell on Ebay.  She starting reading the books, especially about business, but was hooked when she read a book by Robert Ludlum (Bourne Identity).  She decided to try her hand at writing her own book,
Long story short, she finished the book, found an agant, was published and had a bestseller.  The original plan was 3 Vanessa Monroe books, but that has turned into 5, plus an ebook and plans for more books.  She writes 4 or 5 days a week and usually has a loose outline for the direction of a book so she can spend more time developing the characters.
Her book, the Innocent, draws the most from her experience growing up and her ebook, the Vessel, is her favorite right now. When she is writing she uses experts to make sure that her characters are accurate in their actions, and travels to locations to get a real feel for the place.  Taylor says "You can look at pictures, but they don't show you how a place smells."
If you would like to know more and get emails from Taylor about what is up with her, go to www.taylorstevensbooks.com and sign up.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Selection for December

Hi Readers,  the book we will be reading for the Holiday Party is Nathaniel Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea." This a non fiction account of a ship wreck that was the basis for Moby Dick.  The other books nominations were "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See, and "Above the East China Sea" by Sarah Bird.
Copies should be available soon if they aren't already at Barnes and Noble.