Book Reviews From Deena

Check out these book reviews from Deena, a member of the Library’s Patron Service Team. Let us know if you would like any titles added to your booklist or head over to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) to download the titles now.  Need more information about BARD?  See our BARD Page.

Debbie–My Life by Debbie Reynolds DB29097, LT8419
This biography is about the life of Mary Frances Reynolds whose name was later changed to Debbie Reynolds.  Mary Frances got her start in show business when she entered the Miss Burbank contest.  She did not want to win or expect to win but entered so she could get a free blouse and scarf.  She won and was asked to do a screen test for Warner Brothers studio.  Reynolds was an excellent mimic and became a big star.  Her biography tells of her three marriages including her tumultuous marriage to Eddie Fisher.  She had a good relationship with her two children Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher.  Her second husband, Harry Karl was a big gambler and gambled away nearly everything Debbie had.  After her divorce, she sometimes lived out of her car.  She finally found happiness with her third husband.  If you enjoyed Debbie in one many movies Singin’ in the Rain, Tammy, or Unsinkable Molly Brown you’ll enjoy this book.

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the trial of the century by Sarah Miller  DB84888
If you know nothing about the Borden murders that Lizzie Borden was accused of committing, this is a well-researched book.  She covers Lizzie through the arrest, grand jury and the inquest trying to show both sides of the story.

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi   DB76690
This is a different type of memoir divided into chapters such as The Work, A Good Day, This Side of Good and Evil.  Levi is Italian and Jewish, who spent less than a year in Auschwitz, before the camp was liberated on Jan. 18, 1945.  Primo Levi was injured and spent time in the “sick bay” while in the concentration camp.  He saw one of his bunkmates sent to the crematorium.  This book is recommended reading for a number of different courses throughout the world.

Who was Princess Diana?  By Ellen Labrecque  DBC15023
This is one of a series of biographies written for children about famous people.  The book introduces you to Diana Spencer and her family following her through her growing-up years.  It explains the Spencer’s connection to the royal family.  It talks about Diana’s wedding and the births of children.  Lastly, her death and how she was loved by the people.  If you are interested in this series some of the other biographies that have been recorded are; Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, and Steve Jobs.

Throwback Thursday

It’s Throwback Thursday, where we talk about a book we enjoyed years ago!  Today Tim, Digital Recording Specialist/Studio Manager for the library, takes us back.

Are you looking forward to warmer weather, outdoor activities, and longer days? I know I am! When I was a kid, one of the things that spring meant to me was – get out the bat, ball, and glove – we’re going to play baseball! Fast forward to Spring 2008, I’m one year shy of 50 and still playing, albeit a little more “leisure” version – softball. It’s April, and I’m in the Studio at the Iowa Library for the Blind with volunteer narrator David, recording the book Playing with the enemy: a baseball prodigy, a world at war, and the long journey home (DBC01551). We both got completely immersed in this book! This is one of the few books I have recorded in our studio, that at one point (later in the book) it had both David and myself crying – we had to stop the recording session and finish that chapter on a different day! I loved reading this book, and if you like baseball – even a little – and have some memories of the war, I imagine this book will also really touch you in a good way.

Two things really struck me after we finished this book – one, I had a lot of “forgotten” fantastic memories of how much I really loved baseball, and two – the “game” of baseball can really shape a person with many aspects of life – like supporting and encouraging one another, learning how to graciously win and lose, how to work hard and see positive results – even when “defeated”!

There is a reason baseball is often referred to as “America’s National Pastime” and I think in part because it inspires, it instills pride, and even it can even heal!

About the book:
Playing with the enemy: a baseball prodigy, a world at war, and the long journey home DBC01551
Moore, Gary W, (Gary Warren). Reading time: 11 hours, 58 minutes.

Read by David Saurman. A production of Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Iowa Department for the Blind.

Gene Moore was a country boy who could hit a baseball a country mile. He was so good that the Brooklyn Dodgers came calling. When Gene’s baseball career was interrupted by World War II, he joined the U.S. Navy, and in 1944, he found himself on a top-secret mission: to guard the German sailors captured from a U-505 submarine carrying an Enigma decoding machine. Stuck with guard duty, Gene taught the enemy how to play baseball. It was a decision that irrevocably changed his life… and maybe baseball itself. Inspired by true events. 2006.

Is there a book that takes you back?

Book Reviews From Deena

Check out these book reviews from Deena, a member of the Library’s Patron Service Team. Let us know if you would like any titles added to your booklist or head over to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) to download the titles now.  Need more information about BARD?  See our BARD Page.

Benediction by Kent Haruf  DB77097
You might think that because this book is about an old man dying of cancer this book would be a downer. I did not find it so. It is beautifully written. The kindness of the dying old man, his friends, and neighbors make this book a delight.  This book could be a standalone from the series. Highly recommended.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance  DB85796
J.D. Vance grew up in a poverty-stricken area in Ohio. His mother was a drug user and abusive. When things got too bad at home he would go to his grandparent’s house.  Despite his situation, J.D. grew up and joined the Marines, and eventually graduated from Yale Law School. This is a touching memoir of overcoming the odds and becoming an inspiration to others.

The Johnstown Girls by Kathleen George  DB78994
This is the story of Ellen who with her twin sister went through the 1889 Johnstown, PA flood.  Ellen does not know what happened to her sister but has a feeling she lived. At 104, she tells the story of her survival to a reporter on the anniversary of the flood. The reporter and his girlfriend work with Ellen to find out what happened to her twin sister.

The Dog Who Came to Stay by Hal Borland  DB64728
If you like dogs, you will enjoy this book.   Two dogs came to the home of the author on Christmas on a cold, snowy night in Connecticut a number of decades ago.  Both Hal, the author, and Barbara, his wife agreed that they did not want or need a dog.  Enjoy the antics of Pat, a true gentleman and country dog, who adopted Hal and Barbara as his own.

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas  DBC01589, LT10719
This book of historical fiction is based on the 1856 migration of the Mormons from Iowa to Salt Lake City, Utah.  The people used handcarts instead of wagons.  They made the mistake of starting late in July, so the weather was a factor in their journey. It was a dangerous trip and many died from the cold, starvation, or drowned crossing rivers.  They finally reached Salt Lake City in November with a much smaller group than they started.  Follow the perils of these pioneers as they cross the United States to Zion.  This audiobook was produced by our library.

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde  DBC15164
Nathan finds an abandoned baby boy on a hunting trip.  Once the newborn is identified, he is given to his grandmother to raise. Nathan never forgets the child and leaves him gifts for his birthday. The grandmother names him Nat after the man who found him.  The grandmother is strict and Nat is a rebellious teenager so she asks Nathan to raise him.  Nathan is more than happy to take the boy as he always cared for him. The grandmother remains in touch.  As Nat grows older, he thinks he wants to become a boxer.  He trains to fight and gets his opportunity to earn some money when he does well in a boxing match.  A promoter asks him to stay on to fight in an unregulated fight for big money and is seriously injured.  During his recovery, Nat loses interest in everything, so Nathan and Nat’s wife try to get him to come out of his funk.  Nathan buys a boxing gym for Nat, trying to interest him in coaching and Nat finally comes around to working as a boxing coach.  This book is a great example of love between a parent and a child. This audiobook was produced by our library.

Beyond the Book

Beyond the Book with Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

This month we are going Beyond the Book with Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. (DB74646) The author, Cheryl Strayed, at the age of 26, decides on a whim to make the 1,100 hike up the Pacific Crest Trail by herself after years of devastating personal losses.  She experiences many mishaps and adventures along the way while meeting new people in the locals and fellow hikers she encounters. This was not a “how-to” book about hiking, or an informational book about the Pacific Crest Trail, or even a self-help book.  It is the thoughts of a woman who used her journey to work through her thoughts and emotions about her life up to that point. I thought this book would be a good book to take us into the new year as it can make you think about your own life experiences and how you ultimately handled and reacted to them.  2020 was a hard and interesting year that put us all outside our comfort zones and made us look inwardly at how we handle situations.  This reminded me of Strayed’s journey up the Pacific Crest Trail as she traveled alone with only her own thoughts as company.  This book was made into a movie in 2014 starring Reese Witherspoon.  In my opinion, the book is almost always than its movie and that holds true here.  However, the movie was very well done and I really enjoyed it and would strongly recommend it!

Next time we will go Beyond the Book with The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver (DB98810) A contemporary romance about Lydia and Freddie who had been together for more than a decade when Freddie died in a car accident. Deeply grieving, it takes time for Lydia to take the first steps to move on. But in her dreams, she has another chance at her old life with Freddie. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, a romance seems like the perfect fit! Call the library to request this book!  Once you have read it, call or email with your review or thoughts.  You might hear your words in the next Beyond the Book segment in the March Library News. We would love to hear from you!  Call 515.452.1329 or email library@blind.state.ia.us.

Thanks for reading with us!

Book Reviews From Deena

Check out these book reviews from Deena, a member of the Library’s Patron Service Team. Let us know if you would like any titles added to your book list or head over to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) to download the titles now.  Need more information about BARD?  See our BARD Page.

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush  DB71205  BR21557
Laura Bush grew up an only child in Texas.  As an only child, she loved reading and later became a teacher and a librarian.  Two things that affected her growing up years were:  At the age of 17, she was driving with a friend and hit and killed one of her close friends, a boy driving from another direction. The other thing was the shooting President John F. Kennedy in Texas. Laura met George Bush and they were engaged after six weeks. George was very interested in politics and Laura was not, but she helped him campaign as he ran for congress, then governor of Texas and finally President of the United States. The Bush family was left in limbo after the 2000, presidential election when the state of Florida’s election process was in question, and the Supreme Court finally had to rule that the manual Florida recount had violated the Constitution. The event of September 11, 2001 happened during her husband’s presidency.  President Bush was flown all of the country during September 11, to make sure he was safe. At the end of the day, Sept 11, the secret service wanted the president to stay away from Washington, D.C., but he insisted that they return to White House to make sure his family was safe.  Then came the anthrax mail scare and mail all over the country was held up and examined.   Mrs. Bush candidly speaks about her marriage, her relationship to the Bushes and the birth of her twin daughters.  She inserts numerous tidbits of history in speaking of their days in the White House. She talks frankly about the White House events, her numerous trips and meeting various people.  This is an eye-opening book about Laura’s life and living in the White House.

The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Sampson Davis  DB54458
Three young men growing up in Newark, New Jersey made a pact in high school to support each other and stick together and go on to college together.
The young men include:  George Jenkins who always wanted to be a dentist. He was encouraged at an early age to go to college.  George had the most stable environment of the three.  Sampson Davis who at an early age realized his mother could not read.  Her own mother had died when she was seven, so his mother helped to take care of her brothers and sisters and then married at fifteen. Sampson’s mother encouraged him to go to school and get good grades. Rameck Hunt whose parents were addicted to drugs was raised by his beloved grandmother. Their home town of Newark was a place with drugs, shootings and other illegal activity.  Only one of the three managed to stay out of trouble growing up. All three young men agreed to go to Seaton Hall together to become doctors.  I think that at times they believed it would never happen and it was just a whim.  While going to college wasn’t easy all three achieved high grades. There were many pitfalls along the way, including money issues, things they weren’t prepared for, but all three of them made it and became doctors returning to the area where they grew up to practice. They founded a foundation to encourage students to make goals and realize them and were also in demand as motivational speakers. This is an uplifting read and could be used as motivation for students.

Desert Heat by J. A. Jance (First in series of Joanna Brady Mysteries)  DB81543  BRC00696
Joanna Brady finds her husband, Andrew Brady, a deputy sheriff for Cochise Co Arizona, shot and near death in a wash on her tenth anniversary.  Things just don’t add up, his truck is locked and his gun is found under the truck.  The sheriff’s department seems to think Andy attempted to commit suicide.  Then there is the unexplained large amount of money deposited in the Brady’s checking account by Andy with an unknown young woman.  Joanna continues to believe Andy is innocent while several others believe that the money came from the sale of drugs.  Joanna is out to clear the name of her husband and soon becomes involved with a woman who thinks she knows the truth of who killed Andy. This is a good, clean mystery series with interesting characters and relationships.

Beyond the Book

Beyond the Book with Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

This month we are going Beyond the Book with Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf (DB96617).  Before She Was Found is “a gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town. For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover–movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences. Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora–and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted–not even those closest to Cora. Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe–even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.”–Provided by publisher.

Heather Gudenkauf is a bestselling author of many mystery/thriller books.  She currently lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her family.   But she spent a lot of her childhood in Mason City, Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa. I was able to hear Ms. Gudenkauf speak recently at the Iowa Library Association Annual Conference and she is a very calming, insightful speaker.  She possesses a great love of libraries and talked about her many memories using libraries throughout her life, especially the Mason City Public Library.  This summer she did an interview series with other bestselling authors and their pets called Sidekicks and Sidetrips.  It’s a fun, entertaining way to learn about other authors.  You can find these interviews on her website heathergudenkauf.com.  If you like mysteries, Heather Gudenkauf is the author for you!

Next time we will go Beyond the Book with Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (DB74646).  Ms. Strayed recounts the three-month, 1,100-mile solo hike she took on a whim in 1995, after years of devastating personal losses. She describes her encounters with rattlesnakes, locals, fellow hikers, and her own thoughts during her trek from Los Angeles to Washington State on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Call the library to request this book and we can take her journey together. Once you have read it, call or email with your review or thoughts.  You might hear your words in the next Beyond the Book segment in the January Library News. We would love to hear from you!  Call 515.452.1329 or email library@blind.state.ia.us.

Thanks for reading with us!