Check It Out!

MPPL's staff blog about books, movies, music and the talent behind them.

Graphic Novel: Serenity by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews

Serenity Book CoverWant to take a break from reality and join in on the space adventures of the Serenity crew? A prequel to the movie Serenity and set after the TV series Firefly, Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews features all of the beloved characters, humor, and action fans previously fell in love with. This short episode ties up loose ends from Firefly, bringing the story to life with its realistic portraits.

Can’t wait to read it? Check it out instantly on Hoopla with your Library card along with other Dark Horse Comic titles!


Don’t forget:  for each science fiction book read during November 2015, adults are eligible to enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble. Read more about Try Sci-Fi!

Book Discussion Questions: The Shack by WM. Paul Young

Cover of The ShackTitle: The Shack
Author: WM. Paul Young
Page Count: 248 pages
Genre: Christian Fiction
Tone:  Inspirational, Thriller

Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack. Four years later, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

  1. 1. Did this book shock or disturb you? Intrigue you?

2. Were you drawn in by the plot of The Shack? How is it as a story?

3. Who is the intended audience?

4. The book maintained a spot on bestseller lists for several weeks and over one million copies have been sold. If religion is such a touchy subject, how can we explain the runaway success of this book?

5. Did you find the character of Mack to be sympathetic?

6. Many readers find the early chapters of The Shack almost too painful to read. Could they have been written in a way that would be less painful without changing the book’s message?

7. Why is The Great Sadness so frequently mentioned and always italicized?

8. Did the family’s different reactions to the tragedy ring true? (e.g., Josh, Kate, Mack)

9. How did you respond to the use of the narrator “Willie”? What did this add to the story?

10. How was Nan characterized? Should she have been more integral to the story?

11. Does the idea of God as a character in the book, or God’s first-person voice, bother you? Does it work within the context of The Shack’s story?

12. Why is God portrayed a woman? What reasons does God give Mack?

13. How is Young’s description of God different from your concept of God? What parts of his description did you like and what parts didn’t you like? Compare Mack’s assumptions of how God might appear to your own.

  1. 14. Are people changing their view of God because of this book?
  2. 15. Why do you think Mack’s encounter with God took place at the shack?

16. Why did God let Missy die? Do you think The Shack answers convincingly the central question of why, if there is a God, bad things happen to good people? Were you satisfied with God’s answers to Mack about suffering?

17. Why do you think Missy was buried in the garden?

18. What does The Shack say about forgiveness – toward the self or toward those who have wronged you?

19. What were your thoughts about Mack’s reconciliation with his father? In what ways to our relationships with our parents define us? Color our relationship with God? With others?

  1. 20. What is the literary merit of this book?

21. What do we know of the author? What does he reveal about himself in the story and in his reasons for writing?

22. How does the author portray church (or The Church)? Do you agree?

  1. 23. Which part of the book spoke to you the most and why?

24. What part of the book created the most questions for you?


Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Video of Young talking on CBN (Christian Bible Network)
USA Today Article on controversy surrounding The Shack
Q&A with WM Paul Young
Richards Academy’s Discussion Guide


Dinner With a Perfect Stranger Book Cover Paper Angels Book Cover The Reason Book Cover
Dinner With a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory
Paper Angels by Billy Coffey
The Reason by William Sirls

Staff Pick: One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank Cioffi

Jo of Research Services suggests One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank Cioffi

One Day in the Life of the English Language Book CoverDo you know whether the question mark goes inside or outside the quotation marks? No matter. Everyone can find something to learn and even enjoy in the book One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook by English professor Frank Cioffi.

Rather than make up sentences to demonstrate correct usage as is done in many grammar handbooks, Cioffi examines the English language as it is actually used, using more recently published examples to ensure that the sentences were composed by a professional writer and checked by at least one editor. I especially enjoyed the 50-word microglossary which reminded me of just how much formal grammar I have forgotten.

For more books on English language fun, try….

Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma QueenBetween You and Me Book cover by Mary Norris

Who knew grammar could be so much fun? Check out this hilarious “grammar memoir” and find out why a question mark is like a lazy person.



Woe is IWoe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner

New York Times Book Review editor O’Conner guides you through grammatical pitfalls with wit and insight. There’s a companion edition for kids, too!



Word Nerd book coverWord Nerd: Dispatches from the Games, Grammar, and Geek Undergrounds by John D. Williams, Jr.

If word games are your thing, this book is for you! Get the inside story on the greatest SCRABBLE plays and players of all times as well as insight into other games like anagrams and palindromes. Author Williams served as the executive director and official spokesman for the National SCRABBLE association.


If I Was You book coverIf I Was You…: And Alot More Grammar Mistakes You Might Be Making by Lauren Sussman

This book includes sample sentences highlighting the grammatical error followed by a straightforward explanation of why it’s wrong and the correct usage.



Kiss My Asterick book cover

Kiss My Asterisk: A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar by Jenny Baranick

English professor Baranick takes on the most common punctuation and grammatical errors in a laugh-out-loud way.

Science Fiction Romance

Science fiction is more than just intergalactic battles and alien apocalypses! Take time to explore some of the more romantic sides filled with love affairs with aliens and hard to resist attractions. Want more suggestions on what to read? Ask a Readers’ Advisor!

Touched by an Alien Book Cover

Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

Men in Black meets romance, Kitty stumbles into an interstellar affair when a man suddenly morphs into a monster outside of the courtyard and begins a killing spree. Her choice to fight leads her down a path she never would have expected!



The Down Home Zombie Blues Book CoverThe Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

A space commander and her new prisoner/partner from Earth team up to try to save the planet from a biomechanical organism attack. She risks it all in this mission, including this man she is beginning to have feelings for whether she likes it or not.



The Stone Gods Book CoverThe Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

Humans have worn out their planet and are looking to resettle onto Planet Blue. Equally a wide sweeping look at humanity and a narrow focus on Billie, a human who skips throughout time and in the process falls in love with a Robo-Sapien.



Enemy Within Book CoverEnemy Within  by Marcella Burnard

Captain Ari Rose is imprisoned by pirates, with pirate leader Cullin setting his sights on her because of her suspicious time spent in alien prison. The chemistry between them is strong, however, and they might not be able to resist their attraction.



Don’t forget:  for each science fiction book read during November, adults are eligible to enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble. Read more about Try Sci-Fi!

Fiction: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

FascParable of the Sower book coverination with dystopias may seem a new phenomenon, but it isn’t. Authors have long probed the fear of what might go wrong and, even more importantly, what brave souls can do to keep the worst from happening.

For Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old in Southern California, the year 2025 is an exercise in ugly survival, and she has it worse than most. In addition to avoiding desperate scavengers and drug-addled rioters, Lauren suffers from hyperempathy, which causes her to feel others’ pain as her own. Written in diary form, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler offers a thought-provoking and highly readable record of the path she forges not only to discover her own destiny but potentially to offer belief to others.

Did you realize that dystopia is a popular sub-category of science fiction? Stories like these are eligible for our Try Sci-Fi celebration!  For each science fiction book read during November, adults may enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble.

Octavia Butler author photo


"I write about people who do extraordinary things. It just turned out that it was called science fiction." ~ Octavia Butler