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Check It Out!

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

Staff Pick: Mort(e) by Robert Repino

Picture of BarbarbaMort(e) by Robert Repino will feed your need for a quirky indulgence this summer. The story chronicles the “war with no name” where human extinction is the goal. A race of intelligent ants has plotted for years to create an army of self-aware animals who will rise up and overthrow their human masters. Mort(e) a former house cat turned war hero tries to discover the origins of a deadly plague while relentlessly searching for his prewar friend Sheba.

Movies and TV: My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro DVD coverImagination is a quality more often celebrated in movies for the young, but that doesn’t mean we adults don’t crave a bit of childlike wonder, too. Break from routine and open your mind to the joyful story of My Neighbor Totoro. Two young girls move with their father to a new home and discover a world of whimsical creatures: a riot of soot sprites, a fantastical cat bus, and three sizes of fuzzy spirits that mysteriously appear and leave delight in their wake. The animation style is energetic, and the inventive details of expression and gesture bring touches of heart-tugging realism to a tale that will entertain all ages.

Crafted by the famed Studio Ghibli, the film can be viewed in English or in the original Japanese. Choose this title or another of the World Language Movies You Can Watch with Your Kids (or on your own!) for the final days of our Summer Reading Program. There’s still time to enroll and let us know what you’ve been reading and watching in June and July, though be sure to submit entries by July 31.

What is the Mount Prospect Community Reading?

Picture of Response Display









Displayed around the Library are the reviews, theme songs, and readalikes Adult Summer Reading participants are sharing! See what your fellow community members are reading and suggesting, and make sure you sign up for Summer Reading to add your voice! Below are a few of the entries so far:

Cover of The Bees
The Bees by Laline Paull is thrilling. It is so well written that I finished it in two days!

Cover of The Atonement Child
My theme song for The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers is “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. Both Joe and God are there for her when she needs them.

Cover of Slow Dancing with a Stranger
Slow Dancing with a Stranger by Meryl Comer is inspiring and informative. It gave me an inside to Alzheimer’s.















Cover of Sweet Spot
Sweet Spot by Susan Mallery is a great romance novel because the couple was very believable in the great love they had for each other.

Cover of Relationship Rescue
Relationship Rescue by Philip McGraw is helpful. It has good practical tips/steps to help your relationship with a significant other.

Cover of Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is a great read for those who like mystery and family drama. It is really well-written and unravels at a great pace!















Cover of Love Suburban Style
Love Suburban Style by Wendy Markham kept me amused as to how the main characters would end up with each other.

Cover of How Good do we Have to Be
How Good do we Have to Be? by Harold Kushner Is an excellent read for all harried/worried parents because it helps us to realize that we were not meant to be perfect parents, siblings, friends, and children!

Cover of Entwined
My theme song for Entwined by Heather Dixon is “Devil’s Dance Floor.” The heroines make a deal with the devil to pursue their love of dance.

















Cover of 2 Bodies for the Price of 1
My readalike for 2 Bodies for the Price of 1 by Stephanie Bond is any of the Stephanie Plum novels. It’s a light, “fluffy” read with just enough of a story and interesting characters to keep you reading.

Cover of H is for Hawk
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is an amazing immersion into the world of falconry and hawks. The author described her own experience taming her Goshawk “Mabel” with the author of the King Arthur Legen stories and his taming of hawks.

Cover of Dead Wake
Dead Wake by Erik Larson is fascinating and compelling and makes for an engaging book discussion!


















Cover of The Shop on Blossom Street
The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber is a touching poignant book. It takes four women’s lives and intertwines them. They help each other overcome problems and difficult circumstances while enjoying being part of a knitting club.

Cover of Celebrations
Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer is a good compilation of Maya Angelou’s poems. Read by the author, you get to experience her delivery of her work.

Cover of whatever love is love
My theme song for Whatever… Love is Love is “One Love” by Bob Marley. Love is beautiful, no matter what form it comes in.

















Cover of Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper is an unusual love story! I count at last 4 different love stories interconnected over time and circumstance. How many do you see?”

Cover of People I Want to Punch in the Throat
People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann is “Tubthumping.” No matter what happens to this author she gets back up again!

Cover of The Wonder of All Things
The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott is amazing. It was a very emotional, thought-provoking read.

Fiction: Inspired by Reality TV

For ideal summer viewing, you can’t top the curiously addictive appeal of reality television. It can also make for deliciously sudsy storytelling — just ask anyone currently tuning in to UnREAL, a new series that exposes the dark, twisty manipulations from both sides of the camera on a Bachelor-style dating program. This sparked our thinking: what other fiction is built on different types of competition shows?


Like this?
Cover of American Idol
Try this! Cover of Elimination Night



Elimination Night (provocatively attributed to “Anonymous”) shines a comic spotlight on star-making shows like American Idol, and half the fun is drawing direct lines to real-life counterparts! Sasha King is a new producer who is forced to juggle the demands of celebrity judges, unstable contestants, and divas of all stripes.










Like this? Cover of The Amazing Race
Try this!Cover of Lost and Found



For globe-trotting adventure mixed with a grand-scale scavenger hunt, join the teams of Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. Told from the point of view of multiple contestants, the fast-paced action and dramatic antics will have you racing to the finish line.










Like this?
Cover of Trading Spaces
Try this!
Cover of Room for Improvement

Double your reality-TV pleasure with Stacey Ballis’s Room for Improvement and see what happens when you work the DIY angle along with the search for romance. Chicago interior designer Lily Allen is thrilled to work on Swap/Meet, a home makeover show that matches singles looking for both a room re-do and new love potential, but she isn’t immune to the drama in this fun, frothy, and sexy send-up.












Like this?
Cover of Deadliest Catch
Try this!
Cover of Primal Waters



If high-stakes action is more your speed, dive into Primal Waters by Steve Alten. A renown adventurer is invited to join Daredevils, a televised survival series which may be grossly underestimating the dangers the players will have to face. Read for the suspense, the adrenaline, and did we mention shark attacks?










Like this?
Cover of 1900 house
Try this!
Cover f The Corset Diaries



Those who romanticize the past may wish they could join the cast of A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke, a show in which contemporary folk attempt to live for weeks on an authentically retro estate. Giving up modern conveniences may almost be worth the prize, especially if you are cast opposite a dashing Englishman. In The Corset Diaries by Kate MacAlister, the costumes aren’t the only thing that make it hard to breathe!

Book Discussion Questions: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

Cover of Destiny of the RepublicTitle: Destiny of the Republic
Author: Candice Millard
Page Count: 339 pages
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Tone: Detailed, Compelling

James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil.

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

1. When you first saw the cover and learned the subject, what expectations did you have for your reading experience?

2. You are at a party and mention you read this book. Someone asks you what was so interesting about President Garfield. What would you answer?

3. What was better about living in that time than now? What was worse? Would you swap?

4. Let’s talk about Garfield’s life. At the opening of Destiny of the Republic, Millard claims that Garfield, born into “desperate poverty” overcame the odds with a passionate love of learning.   If his mother had not been an educated woman herself, would this still have been possible just based on values and interest?

5. Canal drivers were considered a pretty rough crowd. If we could look in a crystal ball and see that someone like this would become our future president, would you be full of wonder or alarm?

6. James marries fellow student Lucretia Rudolph. Even in their courtship, James has deep concerns about what he sees as Lucretia’s lack of demonstrativeness. A few years into their marriage, James has an affair, which he confesses. In this instance, has he been basically honest or dishonest?

7. How would you describe Lucretia Rudolph Millard?

8. Why do you think Lucretia went through with a marriage to Garfield when she was afraid that he was marrying her out of a sense of duty?

10. During the Civil War, what did Millard show us of Garfield’s talents and character?

11. What was Garfield’s stance on black civil rights? Do you think things would have been different for African Americans if he had been able to fulfill his presidency? Why or why not?

12. Garfield did not run for US senator, but got that seat. He did not run for President, but got nominated. In his stirring speech, for which the book is named, Garfield says that, “not here… is the destiny of the republic to be decreed for the next four years…but by four million republican firesides.”

How much do you agree with his description of how the public decides on a president

A president is chosen by…

-thoughtful voters, with their wives and children around them.

-voters with the calm thoughts inspired by love of home and country.

-voters with the history of the past and the hopes of the future in mind.

-voters with reverence for the great men who have adorned and blessed our nation in days gone by burning in their hearts.

13. When he wraps up with, “Who do we want?” and a voice shouts, “We want Garfield!” do you think there was anything he could have done to shut down his nomination?

14. Would it be possible any more for a candidate to sit out his campaign?

15. What leaders would people travel great distances to hear speak? Do we think of anyone any more as wise?

16. When Garfield was elected, he felt sad. Why do you think he felt sad?

17. A good deal of time is spent on Alexander Graham Bell. What did you learn about him?

18. Bell was clearly pretty driven and intense: insisting on not being interrupted, resisting sleep, playing piano late late at night, but also very smart, caring, committed to the well being of the deaf. Did his wife have a catch or a lemon for a husband?

19. It’s interesting that Bell would blame his neglect for his infant son’s death and then throw himself into his work. Do you think his work ethic was a free choice or a compulsion?

20. Bell was devoted to helping save the president. Can you think of other people, famous or not, with that sense of commitment?

21. Millard also spends a lot of time on Charles Gitteau. Was this necessary? What aspects of Gitteau’s life stand out in your mind?

22. Both Gitteau and Garfield had one thing in common. They had been spared drowning and felt it had been through divine intervention. How did it impact their lives?

23. Do you agree that Gitteau was insane? If yes, then do you think his life should have been spared?

24. Who do you think is more morally responsible for Garfield’s death? Dr. Bliss or Charles Gitteau?

25. Dr. Bliss was clearly not open to new ideas from Europe. Could you see the same thing happening today? Do you think the American medical establishment is open to ideas from other countries or healing traditions?

26. What particularly stands out about Garfield’s time and treatment after he was shot? What feelings did you have from the time of his being shot until he dies?

27. Describe Vice President Arthur. Did he deserve the hatred that came his way after Garfield had been shot? There are many passages that describe him crying. Was your impression that he was crying for Garfield or himself? Did you expect him to be the kind of president he was?

28. The mysterious Julia Sand writes letters to Arthur, giving him a very needed pep talk. Who would you most like to encourage? On the flip side, would you enjoy having a mystery letter writer advise you or would you find it creepy?

29. How did the country respond to Garfield’s shooting?

30. There are two moments of silence described after the shooting. One is the agreement to keep the news criers and people silent so the Garfield boys won’t learn of the shooting while traveling. The next is the silent pushing of Garfield’s train car up the hill to Elberon. Can you think of a public moment of spontaneous quiet?

31. On one of the last days of his life, Garfield asks Rockwell, “’Do you think my name will have a place in human history?’ ‘Yes,’ his friend replied,’ a ‘grand one, but a grander place in human hearts.'” (p. 264)   If you had to choose, which would you prefer: to leave a legacy that impacts generations to come, or to be embedded in the hearts of the currently living?

32. How do you judge the quality of a historical retelling? By your own standards, how would you rate this book?

Other Resources:

Lit Lovers Discussion Questions
NPR interview on Garfield’s death
New York Times book review
Discussion experience of Destiny of the Republic
More Resources curated by Mary Riley Styles Library


Cover of The President is a Sick ManCover of Dark HorseCover of The President and the Assassin










The President is a Sick Man by Matthew Algeo
Dark Horse
by Kenneth D. Ackerman
The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!