MPPL's staff blog about books, movies, music and the talent behind them.
Before you are swept away by the romance of Valentine’s Day, take a cue from Leslie Knope of Parks & Recreation and honor the female friendships in your life. That’s right! February 13 is Galentine’s Day, a day for ladies to celebrate ladies. Need a little inspiration? Try one of these:
The Wildwater Walking Club
by Claire Cook
Noreen, Tess, and Rosie walk and talk their way through life’s ups and downs in their town of Wildwater. As they tally their steps and share their secrets, life begins to take them in some new and surprising directions.
Sushi for Beginners
by Marian Keyes
Depicts the lives of three women in the fashion trade, exploring the trials and tribulations as well as the happiness and joy of true friends in the fast-paced worlds of love and career.
Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral
by Kris Radish
An unexpected bequest from a late friend takes five women on a wild and life-transforming road trip from the deserts of New Mexico to the shores of Lake Superior, as they celebrate the bonds of female friendship.
Circle of Friends
by Maeve Binchy
Two friends who grew up together in a small Irish village attend college in Dublin, where their lives become intertwined with the beautiful Nan Mahon and Jack Foley, the handsome son of a doctor.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
by Fannie Flagg
Mrs. Threadgoode’s tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.
Shoe Addicts Anonymous
by Beth Harbison
Four different women meet Tuesday nights to trade shoes and, in the process, form friendships that will help them each triumph over their problems.
This is only a sample of the gal pals on offer at the Library. Ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor and we will connect you with something to fit your mood!
Title: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Author: Karen Abbott
Page Count: 513 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Collective Biographies
Tone: Dramatic, Richly Detailed, Compelling
One of the most fascinating yet little-known aspects of the Civil War is illuminated in the stories of four courageous women — a socialite, a farm girl, an abolitionist, and a widow — who risked everything to take on a life of espionage. Their adventures comprise a fascinating quartet of determination and intrigue from both sides of the battle lines.
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. How many in the group recall learning about Belle Boyd, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, or Sarah Emma Edmonds prior to this book? Given their individual stories, is that surprising? Why do you think this is?
2. Author Karen Abbott specifically did not want to write about a single individual, instead repeatedly calling on the word tapestry to describe the weaving of multiple stories. Why do you think she chose these four women specifically?
3. Which of the four primary characters most fascinated you or elicited the strongest connection for you? Why? How might you guess Abbott herself answered this question? [Click here to find out.]
4. What factors might influence how we respond to each character? Did the affiliation with North or South matter to you? Personality? Circumstances? Traditional bias toward how women should behave?
5. For each of the four women, what were the most memorable escapades? How effective was each in advancing her cause?
6. Did you feel you had good sense of what in their pasts led these women to these roles? Did any surprise you?
7. What made the women more effective as spies than their male counterparts?
8. How did the women turn societal assumptions or traditions regarding gender to their advantage?
9. How would you describe each character’s relationships with the men in their lives?
10. Which of the supporting characters made an impression? For instance, what did you think of the parts played by Jerome Robbins or Mary Bowser?
11. Is each word in the title intended to correspond to one of the women, or does it hold a different message?
12. How effective is the title in drawing a reader? In establishing a tone for the writer’s approach?
13. The author’s intention was that this history read like a novel. How successful was she? What qualities support or contradict that intent?
14. What is gained by intertwining the four stories in a chronological structure? Would you have preferred to focus on one character at a time in four sections?
15. Abbott begins with the assurance that everything is factual, drawn from primary sources. Some readers question whether this can be true, even if that were her intention. What do you think? Does the issue affect your experience of the book?
16. Most everyone studies the Civil War, but hardly any are taught about Civil War spies, much less women as spies. Why not? What is the value of history instruction beyond battles and traditional leaders? Would you argue for better inclusion of stories like these in general histories?
17. Would you argue that this book holds appeal for both male and female readers? Why or why not? How do you feel about this?
18. Karen Abbott enjoys writing about unconventional women in history who break the rules. If you have read her other accounts (Sin in the Second City, American Rose), how would you say this work compares?
19. Abbott’s next work is a novel about a real-life female con artist in the Gilded Age. Would you follow her into historical fiction? How do you think she’ll do?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
official website of author Karen Abbott
BookTV videorecording of Karen Abbott at the 2015 Savannah Book Festival
a Los Angeles Times review wonders why not call this work historical fiction
New Republic explores the controversy of sexist criticism
National Women’s History Museum profile of Belle Boyd
Smithsonian special report on “Elizabeth Van Lew: An Unlikely Union Spy”
a Civil War Trust biography of Sarah Emma Edmonds
official Rebel Rose website
Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War by H. Donald Winkler
The Spymistress: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini
Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 by Cokie Roberts
If you want a thriller, try…
Beside Myself by Ann Morgan
Already at six, Helen and Ellie have found their roles as a twin. Helen is the older, stronger and favored twin, while Ellie is slower as a result of a complication at birth and thus often ignored. The twins switch places as a funny prank, but once Ellie is in the coveted role of Helen, she refuses to switch back.
If you want a fantastical look at grief, try…
Eleanor by Jason Gurley
After the death of her identical twin, Eleanor is left picking up the pieces of her family’s grief. She begins slipping into other worlds which leads her to new discoveries about the tragedies that have affected her family over time.
Learn how you can win a prize for reading books during February!
The niece of Sherlock Holmes meets the half-sister of Bram Stoker in this steampunk mystery by Colleen Gleason! Filled with action, snark, fascinating characters, Egyptian mythology, and a mystery that keeps you reading until the last page, The Clockwork Scarab is perfect for anyone who enjoys alternate history novels with a great mystery!
February 1, 2016-February 29, 2016
Winter Reading has begun! For every book you read in February you can enter to win a prize. E-books and audiobooks are included.
There is no need to sign-up! Read a book and stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor to fill out a ticket and enter to win a prize. The more you read this month, the more chances you have to win!
Prizes available for participants to win:
-$75 Gift card to Bahama Breeze (2 winners)
-$75 Gift card to Jack Alexander Salon and Spa
-A Mira French Press Stainless Travel Mug+Coffee/Tea (3 winners)
-$10 Starbucks gift card (3 winners)
I don’t know what to read!
Good news, we can help!