Book Review: “A Heart In A Body In The World” by Deb Caletti

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After completing my first marathon, I wanted to read a young adult (YA) book about running. I picked up A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti from the library’s Family Room. This novel is about much more than running (it has the major theme of dealing with a traumatic event) but running sets the framework for the main character, Annabelle, to begin the healing process.

Annabelle is a high school cross country runner who is in therapy and trying to deal with PTSD after a terrible event. On a whim, she decides to embark on a giant run from Seattle to Washington, D.C. Her grandfather helps her out, providing her with food and support from his RV. Soon her run turns into a cause, with hundreds around the country tuning in and showing support.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What A Heart In A Body In The World gets right: This has nothing do with the actual story, but wow, what a great cover!

As for the actual story: the hazards of running are really well described! When Annabelle freaked out in the shower because she hadn’t realized that she was chafed from her run, and the hot water was stinging her? That’s real, y’all . . . just take my word for it. And while she wishes for some Body Glide for chafing, let me tell you, that stuff only works some of the time.

It’s sad that recent, real-life events have made a novel like this so timely and necessary, but I’m glad that author Deb Caletti wasn’t afraid to tackle this kind of subject.

This book will show you the worst of humanity, but it also shows you the best of humanity: the surprising kindness of strangers, the willingness to support a good cause, and the love that a family has for each other. Annabelle’s story is both sobering and inspiring. It’s a story worth reading, even if you end up crying a little along the way.

What A Heart In A Body In The World does wrong: I personally am not the biggest fan of books that are written in present tense, so that took a little getting used to with this novel. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the “heart facts” that prefaced many of the chapters- they were interesting, but they took me out of the story.

Who should read A Heart In A Body In The World: Readers who enjoy running and young adult novels.

Who shouldn’t read A Heart In A Body In The World: While this book is certainly inspiring, it’s also very sad at times. If you’re looking for something more lighthearted to read, then pick up something different.

 

A Heart In A Body In The World is available in the library’s Family Room.

Content note: PTSD, gun violence, language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Mississippi Grind”

Games of luck and chance are often followed by loss and regret, but rarely the game can turn in your favor and you can win big.  Gambling and the rush of action can be as addicting as any chemical drug, and, more times than not, it leaves sorrow and misfortune in its wake. Mississippi Grind highlights these themes in a powerfully acted and stylishly atmospheric film.

It was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who would go on to also do blockbuster films like Captain Marvel. It stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn as a pair of down-on-their-luck gambling addicts who team up to hit all the major casinos and private games in order to participate in a $25,000 high stakes poker game in New Orleans. Curts (Reynolds) is a drifter who dreams of winning enough money to finally settle down, but his obsession with gambling continually leaves him on the road looking for the next big thing. Gerry (Mendelsohn) is a divorced real estate agent who is deeply in debt to everyone who knows him including loan sharks. He longs to win big so he can pay off his debts and reconnect with his wife and daughter.

This film is masterfully done as the tension and high stakes contrast the moments of friendship and bonding the two characters show for each other. Although they have different philosophies, and both have very negative character flaws, they come off as sympathetic and remarkably human and relatable.

Mississippi Grind retains a 90% fresh rating on the popular internet movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

Mississippi Grind is available at the Union University Library.

*Please note: it is rated R for language and some suggestive situations.

 

Top 5 DIY Books At The Library

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Are you looking to learn a new skill or make a new craft? The library has several do-it-yourself (DIY) books that can help you complete your next project. From sewing to woodworking, these guides will take you from beginner to pro.

 

How To Decorate by Shannon Fricke

Shannon Fricke’s How To Decorate gives examples on the best interior design for your home or dorm. Read more about this book here.

 

McCall’s Essential Guide To Sewing by Brigitte Binder

Learn all of the basics of sewing and start a new project with McCall’s Essential Guide to Sewing. This book can also teach you how to mend tears and add embellishments to your fabric.

 

D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself by Ellen Lupton

D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself walks you through conception to creation with various design projects. This book is useful to those who may want to design their own t-shirt, wedding invitations, and even website upgrades.

 

Furniture Makeovers by Barb Blair

It’s easy to give your furniture a makeover with the tips and tricks in this book. You’ll learn how to spray paint, apply gold leaf, stencil, and more.

 

Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide and Cookbook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Try your hand at preserving fruit through canning, refrigerating, freezing, drying, and infusing. Once you’ve preserved your fruit, this book also includes creative recipes for when you’re ready to use them!

 

Bonus:

The Woodwright’s Apprentice: Twenty Favorite Projects From The Woodright’s Shop by Roy Underhill

My mom watches The Woodwright’s Shop With Roy Underhill all the time; her father was a carpenter, and she enjoys learning all about woodworking. Through The Woodwight’s Apprentice book, you can now follow woodworking projects at your own pace.

 

 

 

Moments In History: January 17th, 1920

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Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

January 17, 1920

The Volstead Act

Also known as the National Prohibition Act, the Volstead Act went into effect to enforce the Nineteenth Amendment, which banned the sale of alcohol in the United States.  This act came into being through the acts of the Temperance Movement, a largely female-led political and religious movement that sought to rid America of the temptations and suffering of alcohol dependency. While the good intentions of the Temperance Movement may have been noble in responding to debilitating effects of alcoholism on many Americans, it was none the less naïve to think that the federal government could successfully regulate and enforce such a law.

While there was general decline in alcohol use during the Prohibition era, it was also a time marked by widespread crime, corruption, and violence. This was highlighted by the creation of organized crime syndicates that soon began dotting the major American big cities. The creation of the Italian Mafia and other crime families quickly capitalized on the control and distribution of the illicit selling of alcohol. Illegal bars known as speakeasies began to pop up in many American cities and towns. Alcohol was smuggled in from other nations like Canada, Ireland, Cuba, and Mexico. The illegal production within the United States was often done locally in southern states in the form of whiskey and moonshine.

The attempts to enforce Prohibition led to the creation of the Bureau of Prohibition, a federalized agency that could act where local ineffective and often corrupt police agencies couldn’t or wouldn’t. The use of federal agencies to combat organized and inter-state crime would eventually evolve into the Federal Bureau of Investigations or F.B.I.

Eventually, popular opinion, as well as the states’ need for tax revenue, led to the repeal of Prohibition by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1935.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, the Union University Library has various books and media that cover this tumultuous time period:

 

 

 

 

Reading List: Fun Books For Light Reading

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We get asked a lot about “fun” and “light” books to read. Maybe they have a playful plot, a beautiful setting, or a funny protagonist. These are the kinds of books that are perfect for a study break! We’ve compiled a list below of some fun books that will put a smile on your face (and give your brain a break, too). Click the links to see where each book is located in the library.

 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

It’s the story of Cinderella, but with a twist: Ella is actually under a curse that she’s trying to break. Ella Enchanted is funny, romantic, and smart.

 

Wildwood by Colin Melloy

When her baby brother is kidnapped by crows, seventh-grader Prue McKeel ventures into the forbidden Impassable Wilderness (a dangerous and magical forest at the edge of Portland, Oregon) and soon finds herself involved in a war among the various inhabitants.

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes is an entertaining read about a boy who is sent to a correctional camp with a mysterious history. If you liked the movie, then you’ll love the book- it has the same sense of humor and mischief!

 

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

You can’t go wrong with the classic story of the practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins. Pair the short novel with the original movie and the reboot: we have them all here at the library!

 

Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

Learn all about the inspiring story of Olympic athlete David Boudia in his book Greater Than Gold. Boudia talks about how his faith in God changed his life.

 

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you enjoy romantic comedies, then you should pick up To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This Young Adult book details the mishaps of teenager Lara Jean, whose secret love letters somehow get mailed to all of her crushes from throughout the years.

 

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a samurai, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.

 

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

One of my all-time favorite middle-grade books, Bunnicula is the story of a rabbit that just might be a vampire and the other pets of the family who are trying to solve this mystery. Oh, and it’s absolutely hilarious.

 

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Author Jonah Lehrer believes that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few- it’s something that everyone can use and develop. There’s a lot to learn from this creative nonfiction book!

 

How To Be A Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

A naturalist and adventurer discusses the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals who have profoundly affected her, exploring themes of learning to become empathetic, creating families, coping with loss, and the otherness and sameness of people and animals.

 

Book Review: “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami

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If you’ve read anything by author Haruki Murakami, you’ll have noticed that he likes to write about 3 things:

  • cats
  • people with very specific routines for daily chores
  • men who are visited or contacted by mysterious women

All 3 of these topics pop up within the first 9 pages of his acclaimed 1994 novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is the 5th Murakami book that I’ve read, and at this point his writing style and preferred subjects are familiar and comforting, like a warm blanket, even though he also likes to constantly surprise his readers with wild revelations (like, for instance, a villain who is trying to enter another world via the souls of cats or a place where you see two moons in the sky).

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is about an unemployed, passive man who begins searching for his wife’s missing cat (and then his wife) throughout Tokyo. He meets many weird and mystical characters along the way- some of them sinister.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle does right: This book is like a Japanese Twin Peaks with a healthy side helping of The Shining: neurotic characters, long backstories, mysterious disappearances, claustrophobic hotels, struggles between bodies and souls, and a world beyond the regular one we know. I’d love to see David Lynch make a movie out of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Just like in a Lynch film, you never fully know what’s going on in a Murakami book (or at least, I don’t. But that’s part of why I enjoy them so much).

You can tell that Toru Okada (the narrator and protagonist) is up against something big- possibly even something supernatural or paranormal- but, like Toru himself, you’re not really sure of what he’s fighting against or how he has gotten involved in this vague battle of good vs. evil. It’s exciting to try and unravel the mystery as the book continues and more information is slowly revealed.

The book’s climax had me on the edge of my seat. I’ve never read a book that was so dreamlike and yet so gripping. It was stressful, but ultimately I enjoyed the ride.

What The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle gets wrong: It’s a bit of a slow start, but it does keep you wanting to know more about the characters and what’s going to happen next. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is divided into 3 “books” or parts, but I didn’t realize that at first. The structure of the book makes more sense once you know how it is segmented.

There are a few sexual scenes that I found unnecessary, but I knew to expect them going in. Murakami uses sexual expression in his fiction as a gateway to parallel worlds and understanding other people’s souls; it’s rarely used as a means of procreation or recreation.

While I reveled in how the book finally concluded, it took so long to get there. I think parts of the book could have been shortened or streamlined. And while I enjoyed the historical narratives about events in the second Sino-Japanese war, their connection to the main story was only a vague one, and sometimes I wanted to skip ahead.

Who should read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Readers who are fans of magical realism (i.e. pairing everyday things and settings with characters or events that are out of the ordinary or practically impossible). Nobody does contemporary magical realism like Murakami, in my opinion.

Readers who are interested in Japanese history, especially their involvement in WWII, may also enjoy this book.

Who shouldn’t read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: With any Murakami book, things are going to get really, really weird. If you don’t like bizarre or uncomfortable scenes in books, then don’t pick this one up. There were several scenes that, while pretty brief, were shocking. In particular, the scenes from the war period are disturbingly violent and described in detail.

 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is not currently available at the library, but you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

Content note: suggestive scenes, war violence, emotional trauma. If this book were a movie, it would be rated R. Reader discretion is advised.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The King’s Speech”

Director Tom Hooper has many amazing films under his belt, but my favorite by far is The King’s Speech It is a period piece drama regarding Prince Albert Duke of York (Colin Firth) who, through family scandal and circumstances of succession, ends up becoming King George VI of Great Britain.

The conflict of this film is that Bertie (as his family calls him) has a severe speech impediment and detests the formality of public speaking that goes along with his royal duties. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) believes that a speech therapist might work whereas other doctors have failed. She sets Bertie up an appointment with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The two clash frequently, but soon Bertie warms up to Lionel and his inquisitive and eccentric demeanor. They soon become trusting friends as Bertie begins to improve, and Bertie also shares with Lionel his own doubts and stories about his troubled upbringing.

The film picks up as the seriousness of royal politics sends Bertie to the throne just as world politics witness the rise of the third Reich and Hitler to power. Finally, with the onset of World War II, Bertie must overcome his stammer and fear and address the whole of the British Empire via a radio speech.

The King’s Speech is a fantastic, inspirational drama with great wit and comedic elements that make it an enduring film. It has a positive message of overcoming adversity and becoming your true self.  Audiences agreed as it raked in over $400 million internationally. Critics also marveled at the film as it received twelve Oscar nominations and won four, including Best Picture. The film retains a 95% fresh rating on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

The King’s Speech is available at the Union University Library.

*Please note it is Rated R for strong language.

Moments In History: January 12th, 1967

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Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

 

January 12th, 1967

The Cryogenic Freezing of James Bedford

The cryopreservation of living tissue and cells is a relatively common practice today usually reserved for stem cells, fertilized eggs, embryos, and semen. However, in rare and bizarre cases throughout history, a select few people have opted to have their entire bodies cryogenically frozen and preserved upon death. Their hope is that, if the body and brain are preserved well, perhaps far in the distant future medical science may unlock the key to immortality and possible reanimation of their frozen corpses. This practice has often been labeled as unethical pseudo-science.

However, for the right price and cost of upkeep, there are several Cryo facilities that still cater to this macabre practice. The first man to undergo this procedure was Professor James Bedford, a psychologist at the University of California. Professor Bedford died on January 12th, 1967, from kidney and lung cancer. Although the processes for human cryopreservation have adapted and evolved over time, the usual processes involve the use of liquid nitrogen. James Bedford is currently the oldest person to still be maintained cryogenically frozen in the United States.

The practice has become mostly discredited due to a better understanding of neurology and the distinction that the concept of the “mind” vs. the organic nature of the brain are vastly different from each other.  Still, some people insist that, in the future, medical breakthroughs within nanotechnology and digital quantum computing could allow us to upload and store our consciousness in some form.

If you found this article interesting, the Union University Library has a book that goes into greater detail on the subject of possible future breakthroughs in these respective technologies linked below:

 

Library Staff Picks: What Are We Reading In 2020?

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A new year brings with it new reading challenges! Whether you want to read one book or fifty this year, the library has many for you to choose from. Need inspiration? Take a look at what the library staff are excited to read in 2020!

 

Melissa Moore, Library Director:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Becoming C.S. Lewis by Hal Poe

 

Olivia Chin, Circulation Manager:

Home by Toni Morrison

The Female Experience: An American Documentary by Gerda Lerner

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

 

Mya Putman, Student Assistant:

The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry

 

Stephen Mount, Systems Librarian:

1984 by George Orwell

Any book by Harlan Coben

 

Rachel Bloomingburg, Evening Circulation Supervisor:

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

 

 

 

Featured Author: Zora Neale Hurston

 

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Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7th, 1891. Hurston’s family moved to Eatonville, Florida when she was three. Eatonville was one of the first all-black towns incorporated in the United States, and Hurston occasionally claimed it as her birthplace.

As she grew up, Hurston worked as a maid before finishing high school as a nontraditional student. She then went on to Howard University, where she co-founded the university’s student newspaper and participated in the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, which was founded by and for black women. Eventually, a scholarship allowed Hurston to study at Barnard College of Columbia University, where she was the only black student on campus. She received her B.A. in Anthropology at the age of 37.

Graduate studies brought Hurston to live in Harlem in the 1920s, the peak of the Harlem Renaissance. She quickly became familiar with writers and poets such as Langston Hughes, and Hurston herself became one of the faces of Harlem’s literary movement.

Several of Hurston’s writings include:

 

Sadly, Hurston died in relative obscurity in the 1960s, but her work is now recognized as historically and aesthetically important today. You can check out many of her books right here at the library; just click here to see what’s available.