Information, Answers & Reviews

Award Nominatons and Literary Fiction

LowlandsIf we were to believe the media, summer reading is a time for light beachy reads. Thrillers, romance and other guilty pleasures seem to fall in this category. I fall strictly into the camp that you can read anything you want at any time, but one thing we can agree on? It isn’t summer anymore! So maybe it is the perfect time for a literary read. Literary fiction is often denser, more lyrical and the characters spend less time doing things and more time reflecting or reacting to things. They can be beautiful to read, have complex issues, but also sometimes dark and sad. Warning: literary fiction books often have open or ambigious endings! You will be in for a surprise if you normally read romance or mysteries.

Literary fiction fans often refer to awards lists – and two of my go-to lists have recently announced their nominees. The Man Booker prize is awarded to British authors and those from the Commonwealth of Nations. Their recently announced short list is very diverse – four of the six are women and are from the far reaches of Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India, and Canada. The entire list: Read more »

Teachers

ISBN: 
027616084170

Today we are faced with a rising tide of legislation designed for one purpose, to test the learning of our children in schools and the efficacy of our teachers in teaching them. We often think of this as something new. Teachers, a comedy made in the early 80's, features a school under attack. It has teachers who care about their students, some who don't care about their students and almost every other type in between including those who are just trying to stay alive. The students are not really any better. Some want to learn, some don't and some are also just trying to stay alive. The school is also under attack from the outside. It seems that they are being sued for giving a diploma to a student that is functionally illiterate. Read more »

A Year of Loss

ISBN: 
9781400069439

Paul Harding’s second novel after his Pulitzer-prize winning Tinkers is heartbreak of a novel.  One Sunday in the lovely New England village of Enon, Charlie Crosby takes a solitary walk at a bird sanctuary. He had invited his 13 year-old daughter Kate but she chose to go swimming instead with her girlfriend.  That afternoon while she is biking home from the lake, a distracted mother runs over her.  Charlie’s life changes forever.

The first casualty of Kate’s death is Charlie’s marriage to Susan.  Apparently, Kate had been the glue holding their union together, and when he is so overcome with grief that he can do nothing but lie on the couch and cry, his wife first begs for his help then gets angry.

Then in an intense moment of grief, wanting to feel real physical pain, he pounds the stairway wall and breaks his wrist. Susan takes him to the emergency room but a few days later leaves for her parent’s house in Minnesota.

The novel is essentially focused on two characters, the village of Enon—it’s presence is almost human and palpable--and Charlie, who has long studied the village’s history.  Charlie, who starts to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol, wanders the village mostly under cover of night.  Read more »

Mud

ISBN: 
031398172888

There are times when everything in life seems just as clear as... mud. That’s doubly true if you happen to spend lots of time scrounging the Mississippi River, which is exactly what the characters in the latest from Jeff Nichols (director of 2011’s shamefully overlooked Take Shelter) do to get by. Centering on Ellis and Neckbone, two early-teens swamp rats who befriend a fugitive hiding out near their fishing spot, Read more »

The Garden of Evening Mists

ISBN: 
9781602861800

This beautiful historical novel is set in an exotic place, rural Malaya, after World War II before it became the country of Malaysia. It’s also one of the rare novels that is centered on a Japanese garden.

The narrator, Teoh Jun Ling, a woman of Straits Chinese heritage, has just retired from her career judging war criminal cases. Previous to that, she was a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. In fact, she was the only person to survive; after being tortured there, she developed a great hatred for all things Japanese. Yet her dear sister, Yun Hong, who died at camp, always had a passion for Japanese gardens after she had visited the island nation as a child.

Yun Ling returns to the highlands to see old friends and also to visit the tea plantation of Yugiri where an ex-Japanese, Aritomo, has long worked a spectacular garden.  Although she is repulsed at asking a favor from someone Japanese, she requests that Aritomo build a Japanese garden in her sister’s memory.

He adamantly refuses. But then a few days later suggests an alternative. If she is willing to serve as his apprentice, he will teach her how to create her own. Read more »

If You Liked Doctor Who

Doctor Who In November a show which is perhaps the longest running television series in the history of Television celebrates 50 years. The show is BBC One's time traveling adventure Doctor Who. "Who" is more of a question than a name. Launched 1963 with William Hartnell as "The Doctor" a Time Lord from Galafrey who travels in time and space in a ship known as The T.A.R.D.I.S; a ship inexplicably larger on the inside than the outside and which looks exactly like a 1960's British police call box. Read more »

Playaways: Listen on Your Car Stereo With This Simple Trick!

PlayawayPlayaways are great—an entire audiobook on a gadget the size of a business card!—but they’re typically used with headphones. Don’t worry--using an inexpensive cable, you can connect Playaways to your car stereo for enjoying audiobooks on the road.

Read more »

Hippie Child: How a Young Boy Helped Parent his New-Age Mom

ISBN: 
9781401324605

Think your childhood was non-mainstream? A little kooky? Perhaps on the bizarre side? Well check out the hand Josh Safran was dealt being born in the early 70s in a commune in San Francisco during the height of Flower Power and the counter-culture.

Safran makes his childhood—first in city communes; later in remote cabins in the mountain wilderness actually sound happy.  Credit his mother, Claudia, for that.  Highly intelligent, emotionally warm, full of passion for political change and hope for a just world, Claudia imparted to Josh many values.  Yet, she also barely kept food on his plate and never gave him a beautiful home. In fact for one three month period, they lived in a visqueen shelter on tree stumps in a rain forest. Yet these are failings of poverty not intent. Much worse were allowing her lovers to abuse him and to threaten them both by driving under the influence of alcohol on icy mountain roads, often in the dark.

The book is sad, poignant, funny, and a surprising page turner from beginning to end. Check out this hook of an opening sentence “By the time I was ten, I had hitchhiked thousands of miles and befriended hundreds of remarkably strange people.”  Here’s a short list of them: Crazy John, Uncle Tony (no blood relation), conniving Bob, deal-making Read more »

Get to Know Your Health Insurance Options

Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace? If your answer is "No", or "What's that?", then you may want to start exploring your options for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Marketplace opens October 1st, 2013, but you have until January 1, 2014 to decide what options you want to choose. So, if you're wondering what to do, or if you just want to get more familiar with how this all works, you can visit Healthcare.gov, the federal web portal for health insurance. On that website, you will see many options under a tab marked "Learn". There you will find information, checklists, videos and other guidance for individuals and familessmall businesses and other topics.

Healthcare.gov Website

 

Below are a few places to learn more as well (some of these are buried down on the Healthcare.gov website). We picked these because they provide concise, accurate and understandable information to help you learn how the marketplace works and what the processes are for getting coverage. 

That last link is especially important because you will need to understand concepts such as premiums, deductibles, how much a plan will cost overall (out of pocket maximum), etc.

If you want help signing up for health insurance, there are "navigators" who can assist. In Monroe County, you can call IU Health to set up a time to meet with a trained navigator, who can explain your options and help you enroll. To make an appointment with an insurance marketplace navigator, call the IU Health Individual Solutions office at 812-353-2020 or 1-800-313-1328.The office at 413 S. Landmark Ave. operates from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, though individual appointments may be available outside of those times.

What Maisie Knew

title imageI always like it when the holds queue runs out on good, recently released movies. What Maisie Knew might be one of the better ones I've seen so far this year. The story concerns a child who is shuttled between caregivers as her parents pay more attention to their careers and bitter custody battle than their own daughter. Based on the 1897 novel by Henry James, the film has been updated to present-day New York City (with a few other things changed as well, but it retains the core of the story). The movie is shown mostly from the little girl Maisie's perspective. Though, since she is a young child, the film centers itself around what we as the audience perceive as so-called mature viewers and what she innocently "knows". We don't really know anything about these people outside of what is shown to us, but we come to make judgments about their actions because of how they effect the child. It is an emotional film, constructed in a way to make you feel angry, sad, and hopeful toward the situations the child is put in.  Read more »

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