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: [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 Ransom Center celebrates 150 years of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with an exhibition for the curious and curiouser of all ages. Learn about Lewis Carroll and the real Alice who inspired his story. See one of the few surviving copies of the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Discover the rich array of personal and literary references that Carroll incorporated throughout Alice. Explore the surprising transformations of Alice and her story as they have traveled through time and across continents. Follow the White Rabbit's path through the exhibition, have a tea party, or watch a 1933 paper filmstrip that has been carefully treated by Ransom Center conservators. The Center's vast collections offer a new look at a story that has delighted generations and inspired artists from Salvador Dalí to Walt Disney.

May 6, 6:00 PM: Taylor Stevens will speak at the Round Rock Public Library. She has been compared to Steig Larsson - mysterious and a little dark.

Author David Liss Speaks @Georgetown Library May 14, 2015 2:00 PM $15 n advance, $18 at door. See article below.

Also May 14th, 7:00 PM, Barnes & Noble La Frontera will host an event about To Kill a Mockingbird - Discussion about the book and the film.

The 2015 Texas Book Festival will be October 17th and 18th.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I just finished our July book Not Between Brothers - Texas Rising on History Channel starts Mem Day

I just finished our July book Not Between Brothers and have spent the last 15 minutes online trying to figure out exactly what days and times "Texas Rising" (based on the book) will be on The History Channel. I see it on Monday and Tuesday nights 8-10pm Central but good luck figuring it out after that.  Appalling fact - they changed the character names!! Apparently Remy is James in the TV version and Kills White Bear is BILLY.  At least Sam Houston is still Sam Houston :).

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rosie Project Paints a Rosy Picture of a Difficult Disorder

The Rosie Project, by Graham Simsion, presents an unusual main character, a man who clearly is “on the spectrum” of autistic disorders. The character, Don, seems to have Asperger’s Syndrome, though he never claims the diagnosis in the book. The author leaves a few ambiguities, and Don’s actual diagnosis is one of them. During the story, the small amount of Don’s past that is offered to the reader shows that Don was always “different” and had a lot of problems due to his quirky personality but never was considered to have any kind of disorder that might be common to anyone else. Don was misunderstood from the start, by his father and brother in particular. After Don was involved with Rosie, it “came out” that his family had long thought he was gay. Don also had problems fitting in with his classmates during his childhood, to the extent that he studied and practiced martial arts. Marla, who nominated and presented the book to us,  indicated that the martial arts practice was a way of saving himself from bullying.  Janice noted that Don grew up in an era of less self-awareness than now, which could explain the scene where Don speaks to the Asperger's group without realizing that he's one of them: funny scene in the story and maybe in the originally planned movie. Marsha said that “Autism” is the modern label for at least some of what used to be called “mental retardation.” Don, of course, wasn’t retarded in every way, as he was brilliant at academics, especially science, and had an abnormally accurate memory.

We had some confusion and disagreement as to who Rosie’s real father was. Carla and I thought it was the doctor who was photographed at Rosie’s mother’s reunion, whose friend hinted strongly at this when Don questioned him during the inquest of all those who attended the reunion. Most everyone seemed to think it was Phil, the man who had raised Rosie but who she didn’t think was a good father to her. Ellen, our newest member, said that she Googled a question as to who was supposedly Rosie’s father, and that many hits came up and that many pages have been written on this topic. The author somewhere indicated that Phil was the father.

Marla asked us to suggest why the author included Gene in the story. Here are notes I wrote for some answers; some may be fairly direct quotes (I'm always open to corrections):

Pam: Marla had said that the author originally wrote the story as a movie script and then changed it to a novel…and so since a movie needs a focus on sex, Gene was it.
Carla: At the end, the tables turn and Don shows his character to have grown when he gives Gene advice to stop acting like a child in his getting involved with too many women.
Lydia: Gene was another possible father for Rosie, which added some excitement to that aspect of the plot.
Ellen: Gene was a friend for Don as well as a candidate for Rosie’s father.
Dennis: Gene was a collector, of women from foreign countries.
Pam: Gene was an unfortunate choice of character.
Cindy T.: Both Gene and Don were coming of age during the story, each in his own way.

Marla started another conversation by stating that the author was trying to depict empathy and asked the question as to whether love is empathy and how that relates to happiness. If Asperger’s syndrome renders a person unable to feel empathy or maybe unable to understand it if they feel it, how can they love another person? There was some discussion about Don changing his ways for Rosie and whether this would be sustainable. Pam said that Don will constantly be working on changing his natural inclinations or at least his actions. Carla said that while Don was changing some behaviors to be more appealing to Rosie, he was benefitting from these changes by broadening his range of experiences and he was aware that he was enjoying and feeling better in some ways after making these changes.

Patty asked whether empathy or friendship can be taught. A number of people shared personal experiences about family members who have been diagnosed with autistic-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome and about their own feelings of not fitting in. This moved to a discussion about introverts and their coping mechanisms in our society, which seems to value extroverts. The conversation was lively, and I was thinking of asking the group, “How many consider yourself an introvert?” I wondered particularly about our group because of so many of us being prolific readers. The conversation moved on before I had a chance to ask the question, and it became off the subject. But, you might now think about whether people who love to read tend to be introverts.

Those who didn’t completely enjoy the book had the following criticisms:
Offensive depiction of autism and Asperger’s, complete with mockery and oversimplification.
Don as an unappealing choice for a woman to fall in love with, so the love story was contrived.
Not funny.
Didn’t ever figure out who was implied to be Rosie’s father.
There were an equal number of rebuttals to these disagreements, Kathleen saying that it was uplifting that the story showed that Don could enable himself to lead a full life. Carla said that Don was a stereotypical man in some ways and that everyone has to play some games sometimes to fit in. Janice compared Don to the very popular Sheldon character on the TV series, The Big Bang Theory. Patty said she laughed at the part where Don was practicing his dancing with a skeleton. Others laughed during reading this book, too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Texas Rising, Memorial Day start for show based on "Not Between Brothers"

You can find more info and a trailers on the history channel website.  This is an eight hour mini series.  If I have time I will be watching it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Unbroken: So Exciting It Doesn't Spoil the Reading Even if You Know How it Ends

True war stories never cease to amaze! Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, is no exception, and it is an exceptional book! This is a best seller, that people claim as favorite, best book ever. I have trouble choosing one of those, but that's off topic. A group of more than 20 met to discuss the book, and all had read it! I don't think we even bothered to take a vote as to how many "liked" this book, as it is obviously an excellent book.

Thanks to Joyce! Presenting the book, she brought some notes and questions and added depth to our understanding. Joyce told us about some ex prisoners of war she remembered from her teen years. One was a priest who had been a POW in Germany. Joyce's description of him, from her teenaged self, was that he shook and was mean and said "damn" in front of the teens; which, at that time and in that place, was unusual and out-of-control behavior. The second was the father of one of her friends. This man had been a POW of the Japanese. He was very thin, because he had severe digestive problems (likely from the war). Maybe he had encountered Zamperini and/or been at that awful camp where Zamperini had been. Another was a man Joyce remembered as "Mr. Martin." This man had been a POW of Japan. He was considered "shell-shocked" and lived his adult life with his parents. Joyce currently has a nephew who was a medic in Afghanistan and now has a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. It is upsetting to think of how much disruption is caused in the lives of those involved in almost any aspect of war.

Joyce asked us to share our most memorable impressions from the book:
Marcia: the sharks in the water around the raft
Dennis: the brutal training, complete with beatings
Carla: the dangerous poorly maintained planes, "flying coffins"
Cindy T.: Louis had bargained in prayer that if he lived, he would devote his life to religion, and this did happen, though it was many years after the end of the war
Joyce: the prisoner who was going to drink a drop of water from a leaf, and the guard who took that opportunity away from the prisoner
Me (Claudia): the Bird's unrelenting meanness and how hard it must have been to cope with every aspect of it
        The Bird sent us into a tangent: Carla said he was interviewed and said that his actions were                        expected of him, but that she thought he was psychotic.
         Linda H. thought he was a pervert

We didn't discuss a lot of the action in the book in detail. There were some interesting comments about the writing of the book and the veracity of the history. Amy told us about an interview of Laura Hillenbrand, the author. Hillenbrand communicated with Louis Zamperini for 6 years while writing the book, interviewing him 75 times, according to the New York Times. She didn't meet him until near his death. He went to visit her, as she was mostly housebound. She wanted to see the scars on his hands. Scars would have been from when an albatross bit him, when he was on the raft and was catching albatrosses for them to eat as well as use for bait to catch fish. Perhaps some from catching sharks with his bare hands on the raft, for food and bait. Carla remembered that another scar might have been from when Louis hoisted himself from the sinking plane via his class ring that had hooked onto the plane's frame. Hillenbrand said she felt that she had been better able to write about Zamperini without meeting him.

Kathleen voiced a concern about her suspicion that so much detail might indicate some fabrication. Pam also felt that not every detail was completely true. However, as Carla argued, Zamperini had kept a lot of notes in his notebook, and Dennis and Linda remembered noticing the parts in the book where the prisoners purposely memorized details and told each other the details while on the raft to keep their minds active and sane. Another factor is that Zamperini did tell his war stories for many years between the 1940s and Hillenbrand's researching his life a few years ago. Many renditions are available via news articles, interviews, television, lectures, etc. Zamperini's war stories are part of U.S. history. For the skeptical, there is still room for some fabrication, as the memory is what it is.

Zamperini lived to see the book plus an unfinished version of the movie that director Angelina Jolie showed him when he was in the hospital. I think it was Carol who told us about Jolie visiting Zamperini. He apparently liked the movie. There has been some controversy about the detail and emphasis on his religious transformation at the end of his life, which some critics believe was minimized too much in the movie. According to Angelina Jolie's visit with the hero, his religious feelings were personal and he was comfortable with the movie rendition. This concern of his might have influenced the movie.

There are a number of articles and reviews about the movie online (duh). Here is a link to a trailer on YouTube. Unbroken - Trailer  If you watch it, you will be led to more videos about/from the movie. The movies doesn't seem to be around, but you can watch on Amazon for $15.00. (I'll wait.)

There are many interviews and reviews about this book and its history. So, that would indicate that there is a lot of truth in the book, or at least that it matches Zamperini's memories. The central figure in this biography, Louis Zamperini, certainly survived almost unbelievable hardship during the war. It's great that such a detailed history has been recorded about him and that the evils of war are publicized by this bestseller.

Films that were mentioned in conjunction with this book that had relevant subject matter, ie, the Japanese in World War II:
The Bridge Over the River Kwai
The Great Raid
King Rat
The Camp on Blood Island
Empire of the Sun
Letters From Iwo Jima
Flags of Our Fathers
The Railway Man

Monday, March 9, 2015

Author David Liss Will Speak @Georgetown Library May 14, 2015

Press release:
Friends of the Georgetown Public Library Welcome San Antonio Author David Liss
Georgetown, Texas—March 9, 2015. The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series will feature author David Liss on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 2 pm at the library. Doors open at 1:30 pm.

Tickets for the event are $15 in advance and $18 at the door, and may be purchased starting Monday, March 30, 2015 at the Second-Hand Prose bookstore on the second floor of the library or by contacting Marcy Lowe at 512-868-8974. A dessert from the Red Poppy Café in the library will be served with the presentation. The library is located at 402 W. 8th Street in Georgetown.
All proceeds from the event will go toward meeting unfunded projects of the library.

David is the author of several novels and will make a presentation about his latest thriller entitled The Day of Atonement. He will be the second speaker of 2015 in the Authors Series.

In The Day of Atonement, David Liss blends meticulous period detail with crackling adventure and a riveting plot in the tale of one man’s quest for justice and personal retribution. His protagonist, Sebastião Raposa, is only thirteen when his parents are unjustly imprisoned—never to be seen again—and he is forced to flee from Portugal, lest he too fall victim to the Inquisition. But ten years in exile only serves to whet his appetite for vengeance. Returning at last to Lisbon, in the guise of English businessman Sebastian Foxx, he is no longer a frightened boy but a dangerous man tormented by his violent impulses. Haunted by the specter of all he has lost, Foxx is determined to exorcise his demons by punishing an unforgivable enemy with unrelenting fury.

Foxx begins to track down the ruthless Inquisitor priest Pedro Azinheiro, but in a city ruled by terror and treachery, where money and information can buy power and trump any law, no enemy should be underestimated and no ally can be trusted. Having risked everything, and once again under the watchful eye of the Inquisition, Foxx finds his plans unraveling as he becomes drawn into the struggles of old friends, none of whom, like Lisbon itself, are what they seem. Compelled to play a game of deception and greed in which no one can be trusted, Sebastian Foxx will find himself befriended, betrayed, tempted by desire, and tormented by personal turmoil and human monsters. And when a twist of fate turns his carefully laid plans to chaos, he will be forced to choose between surrendering to bloodlust or serving the cause of mercy.

David’s debut novel, A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) with its hero, the pugilist turned private investigator Benjamin Weaver, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won him the 2001 Barry, MacAvity and Edgar awards for Best First Novel. David’s second novel, The Coffee Trader (2003) was also named a New York Times Notable Book and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the year’s 25 Books to Remember. His third novel A Spectacle of Corruption (2004), the sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper, became a national bestseller.

His fourth novel, The Ethical Assassin (2006), is his first full-length work that is not historical fiction. His fifth novel, The Whiskey Rebels, is set in 1790′s Philadelphia and New York. The third Benjamin Weaver novel, The Devil’s Company (2009) also received critical acclaim.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Florida, David is a former, one-time encyclopedia salesman. He received his B.A. from Syracuse University, an M.A. from Georgia State University and his M. Phil from Columbia University, where he left his dissertation unfinished to pursue his writing career. David lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.

Marcy Lowe

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is Aptly Titled

Our discussion began with tying the book to the author's background. Dennis, who nominated and presented The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, told us some biographical details about the author. It was clear that the author's history impacted this book. Barbery grew up in France, has a degree in philosophy and taught philosophy before her book became such a grand success that she was able to become a full-time writer. As a writer, the author was free to live wherever she chose, and she chose Japan. This book is her second;  the first included the same concierge character. (Let us know if you read it!)

Our conversation about the author and how her biography relates to her book went into some of the, not necessarily stereotypes, but culture, of France; where the snobbery in the story would be a normal way of life for the author to have experienced. We were not blind to the similarities to American society, but there seem to still be differences between American and European culture. Someone suggested that the European countries have richer humanities histories than we do because of the relative ages of the countries and that these histories. We are Paloma to their Renée and Ozu! The author's knowledge of art, music and philosophy were important additions to the story and character development. Marla said that she has read some books in French and noticed that they tend to have more presence of cultural history than do American novels. Partly because these kinds of references and interests are not as typical of the American awareness as they might be in France, this book might not have been published in the United States had it not been popular in French first, and it was slow to catch on in the USA. Also interesting was the author's choice of a Japanese hero in the story and her apparent love for Japan in her real life.

Linda H. suggested that because the author was a professor, maybe she purposely used advanced vocabulary in an attempt to teach and stretch the reader, rather than just because it comes naturally to her. Then we were off on a discussion of education and whether educated grammar is important to the message or whether it doesn't matter as long as the message is sent and received. We touched on the future emphasis or lack thereof on grammar and writing in education, and the current cultural/educational trend toward production and acceptance of writing that is less and less impeccable grammatically and in other ways. Cindy T. brought us back into the book with a quote from page 167, in one of Paloma's "Profound Thoughts." Paloma writes, "And when intelligence takes itself for its own goal, it operates very strangely: the proof that it exists is not to be found in the ingenuity or simplicity of what it produces, but in how obscurely it is expressed." Was this a foreshadowing of Paloma's later appreciation for Renée?

Hedgehog was one of the many books that that make me think during the meeting that there could be semester classes or at least several book club sessions on the book. In this case, I thought of a good topic for a study: Paloma's Profound Thoughts: Aspects that Showed Paloma's Maturity Beyond Her Years and Aspects That Reminded Us That She Was Yet a Child.

Everyone at the meeting, or almost all had read the book. Everyone apparently liked it except a few who were willing to speak up and criticize the whole or parts of the book. It seems that our group finds it interesting to know why someone has a different overall opinion or experience of a book, especially when that opinion that goes against the majority opinion. We like to hear these opinions and the reasons for them. It seems to put that reader on the spot, but it enriches our discussions. We thank those who are willing to explain their personal dislike of a book, particularly one that most others enjoy. I will refrain from listing names when I write about these divergent opinions unless told otherwise. One comment was that the book didn't make sense and didn't give the reader an understandung of what the author was trying to say. Another said that she didn't like the pretension in the book and wanted more story about the characters rather than psychoanalysis of them; this reader liked Ozu because he stood out as being genuine instead of pretentious. Another critique was that the book made the reader feel like there was a lot that she didn't know. This was a mixture of praise and criticism, as the book inspired the reader to do a little research, whether for vocabulary or cultural or artistic references. Others in the group also said they were moved to do some research and learned some things as they read this book.

A lot of us did like Ozu for his bucking the trend of those around him. Cindy T. noted that Ozu saw people for who those people were, rather than seeking himself through his relationships. Thus, Ozu was able to pierce what Carla called the concierge's "reverse snobbery" and get past Renée's sham outer personality to become friendly with her and have fun with her. Shirley said that perhaps the author was emphasizing this ability of Ozu to get out of his own ego and challenging the reader to see people for themselves rather than as mirrors. Did this idea relate to Paloma's description of the rugby player who she noticed because he maintained an inner focus rather than an outer one like other athletes? (Was there a theme of focus?) Dennis told us that the book sold well in Japan and suggested that this was because of Ozu and the core of the book being about beauty and aesthetics, which are valued in Japanese culture perhaps more than here. We value our aesthetics, but more so (do you like "moreso" or "more so"?) when we decide to go to a museum rather than in the media that appeals to the general public.

Hedgehog had some moments and some depth! Our discussion? ALL moments and always!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"...A farmwife...went into the fields summers and lay down among the sheep, to have company."

Horses, check. Women, check. Guns, check. Covered wagons, check. Fights, check. Lynching, check. Deaths, check. The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout, was a Western! Insanity, a strong woman who owned her own home and farmed her own land, and a destination in Iowa added plot and character. And the book became a page-turner. More than one book club member hesitated to try it at first and then had difficulty putting it down before finishing it. Almost everyone at the meeting had read and liked the book.

Patty noted that although many westerns focus on heroes or outlaws, this one was about victims. Briggs was certainly an outlaw, but all the other characters were victims of the time, the place, or circumstance. And even Briggs lost his money, the victim of a not uncommon bank closure. The crazy women and, to a great extent, their husbands, were victims of the time and place. Mary Bee was a victim of time, place, and being homely and educated - deal-killers for most potential suitors in Loup.

Marcia asked a key question about the book's plot and Briggs' character. "Why didn't Briggs abandon the crazy women?" Was it because of the way they followed him wherever he went, so he would have had to lock them in the wagon to escape them? The author was able to create some tension periodically, when Briggs would arrive at a place where he would consider leaving the women. Did Briggs have a streak of "good" in him? Or maybe the author wanted to give Briggs a little redemption. Swarthout let the reader know that Briggs had never shot anyone, almost at the very end of the book, thus giving the character a cleaner slate than most readers would have suspected. Janice and Carla questioned whether Briggs was losing his mind, especially when he danced at the end of the book.

This was a 2-character book: Mary Bee Cuddy and Briggs. Others added a bit of flavor (the crazy women, their husbands, the traveling Reverend, and Altha Carter). Briggs was a typical Western character, but he was an antihero, according to Janice. Marla suggested that his ethics involved taking what was there at the moment. Marla and Carla suggested that Mary Bee was showing signs of craziness when she accepted the Homesman job. Carla, aside, said that Briggs was also crazy. Patty thought Briggs' rejection of Mary Bee was what sent her over the edge. I agree with Patty, adding that Mary Bee's seeing what Briggs could do that she couldn't and realizing how much more than her capabilities would be needed to keep running her farm over the years was what made her think she needed him to marry her.

The ending worked. We weren't sure what happened after the ending, but we felt like there was a distinct probability that Briggs would go back to Loup, maybe take over Mary Bee's homestead; after all, he was a claim jumper by trade. This possibility was distinct but not definite. There was also the possibility that Briggs would continue traveling and being a professional "opportunist," as Carla called him.

Carla mentioned an Oregon Trail Museum, where she saw a display of lots of stuff that people discarded along the trail, for various reasons you can imagine. When you're headed to Oregon, there are 2 museums listed online, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon and End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City. Oregon is one of a very few states I have not yet visited, so I hope to get there.

Now the book is a movie. The Los Angeles Times called it, "Love and Madness on the Frontier," and " Disquiet on the Western Front." It seemed to have a quick run around town without many stops. Of course...say it with me..."The book is better than the movie." But I want to see the movie. Please let me know if you find it when it reappears,