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Fiction: The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Cover of The Flame Alphabet

 

The sounds of children’s voices have become lethal to adults.

 

In order to survive, Sam and Claire must flee from their only child, Esther. Resigned yet determined, Sam pursues a cure as he reflects on the crumbling of civilization as America once knew. The Flame Alphabet is filled with a certain kind of horror where children become the enemy, yet is also layered with the relentless beauty of a father stubbornly fighting to keep his family together. Ben Marcus’ stunning and cadenced writing only adds emphasis to what is truly at the core of this bleak dystopian: the power and splendor of language in its ability to hurt and heal.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 28, 2015 Categories: Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Literary

Fiction: Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift

Wish You Were Here book cover“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them,” George Eliot wrote. “They know all our penitence, all our aching sense that their place is empty.”

The truth of these words scalds the characters of Man Booker Prize winner Graham Swift’s Wish You Were Here. When Jack receives word from the Ministry of Defence that his younger brother Tom was killed in Iraq, he must make arrangements to bring his remains back home to the Isle of Wight. This task forces Jack to confront complicated feelings toward not only his brother’s death but also his father’s, and the weight takes a toll on his relationships with the living as well. Evocative, slow-burning, and complex, this deceptively quiet novel depicts with graceful melancholy the relationships that haunt and enrich us.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 25, 2015 Categories: Books, Literary

Staff Pick: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Picture of DonnaLittle Beach Street Bakery is a delightful novel by Jenny Colgan. Two people decide to totally change the course of their busy lives and end-up in a remote area of Cornwall, England. One takes up baking bread and the other to tending to bees. Fishermen and townspeople add side stories to this new book. I kept reading to find what what happens next.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 19, 2015 Categories: Books, Picks by Donna, Staff Picks

Nonfiction: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

Ghettoside book coverDetective John Skaggs could be the intrepid hero cop of your favorite mystery novel. He has an imposing physical presence, he is an extreme perfectionist working within an ailing system, and he is equally compassionate and relentless. Murder may be his beat, but he believes in investigating every homicide, no matter the victim, as if it were the biggest media event of the year. In Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, Jill Leovy reports one tragic case in gripping true-crime style and exposes the larger sociological issues we as a nation have allowed to take root. Few nonfiction crime books tell the story equally well from both sides of the crime tape. This one does, and it doesn’t stop there.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 18, 2015 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction

New in Romance: Dating Experiments, Kidnappings, and Facing Fears

Take a look at some of the newest romance titles that have arrived at the Library! You can get swept up in Patricia Park’s modern re-telling of Jane Eyre, see if in Love After All Chelsea Gardner’s foolproof list of requirements in a man will work, and enjoy the mess of two single parents accidentally renting the same Guest Cottage. Have any recent romance favorites of your own? Stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk or on Facebook and let us know which books warm your heart.

Cover of Traveling Tea Shop
The Traveling Tea Shop
by Belinda Jones
There’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal…

Cover of Love by the Book
Love by the Book
by Melissa Pimentel
Lauren turns her love life into an experiment: each month she’ll follow a different dating guide until she discovers the science behind being a siren.

Cover of Re Jane
Re Jane
by Patricia Park
Re Jane is a bright, comic story of falling in love, finding strength, and living not just out of obligation to others, but for one’s self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of Love After All
Love After All
by Jaci Burton
Sometimes, a relationship that looks totally wrong on paper can turn out incredibly right…

Cover of Captive
Captive
by Brighton Walsh
Madison dreams of someday leaving her life behind. She just never thought being kidnapped is how it would happen.

Cover of Moonlight on Butternut Lake
Moonlight on Butternut Lake
by Mary McNear
While the seemingly endless days of summer unfold, Reid and Mila take the first steps to healing as they discover love can be more than just a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of Language of Paradise
Language of Paradise
by Barbara Klein Moss
Sophy must decide whether to live and paint in the world her husband has made or escape to save her child and herself.

Cover of The Love Letters
The Love Letters
by Beverly Lewis
Marlena Wenger’s life takes an unexpected turn on the day she learns she must care for her estranged sister’s baby.

Cover of Perfect Match
Perfect Match
by Fern Michaels
An injured ex-athlete discovers that giving up on the game of life is not an option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of The Guest Cottage
The Guest Cottage
by Nancy Thayer
Best-laid plans run awry when Sophie and Trevor realize they’ve mistakenly rented the same house.

Cover of Hold Me
Hold Me
by Susan Mallery
Part of Destiny aches to let go when she meets former world-class skier Kipling…the rest is terrified what will happen if she does.

Cover of The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress
The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress
by Victoria Alexander
Lucy Merryweather tries to fulfill as many of her deceased aunt’s scandalous wishes as possible while eluding prying reporter Cameron Effington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 15, 2015 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Romance

Staff Pick: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Cover of The Awakening of Miss PrimMarta of Fiction/AV/Teen services suggests The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera…

Step with Miss Prim into the village of San Ireneo de Arnois and enjoy the stores filled with luscious chocolates, beautiful flowers and well-chosen books.   Meet the intelligent children who have been carefully educated by their parents in the classics of literature and art. But, if you are not looking to be married, beware the San Ireneo Feminist League, who might place husband finding on the agenda.

Imagine Prudencia Prim’s horrified surprise when she finds herself subject to this scrutiny. And yet… as she searches her heart she finds that love is growing for her employer: the inscrutable Man in the Wing Chair.

Fans of Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy will relish a romance based on moral ideals, attraction and longing. Readers who love a well described sense of place will want to visit San Ireneo and never leave.

For more charming international cozies try

 

Cover of Hector and the Search for Happiness
Hector and the Search for Happiness
by Francois LeLord

The French author tells a charming yet meaning laden tale of a burned out psychiatrist who leaves his job and travels the world trying to discover what makes people happy or unhappy.

Cover of The House at the End of Hope Street
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag
11 Hope Street is literally a life changing location. Alba has recently suffered disappointment and is offered 99 days to stay in this unusual home. Will its magic work for her?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of Hotel Pastis
Hotel Pastis
by Peter Mayle
Simon Shaw ditches his career as an advertising executive and escapes to the south of France. Pleasures and obstacles are equally great in this ode to provincial life and the desire to begin again.


The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by Andrew McCall Smith
More than a mystery, the first book in this popular series draws readers into small village life in Botswana and into the wise, contented mind of Mma Ramatswa.

Cover of Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes
Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes
by Betsy Woodman
Far from her native Scotland, Janet Laird moves to a small home in India. When the proposed building of a new dam threatens to wipe out the village, Janet comes up with a plan to save this new home that she loves.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 14, 2015 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Picks by Marta, Staff Picks

Staff Pick: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Picture of NancyIn Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me, Joan Joyce, a wife and mother in California, looks back on her time as a professional ballet dancer in 1970s New York, particularly when she helped a celebrated dancer defect from the Soviet Union to the United States.  With precise, graceful language that mirrors an elegantly performed ballet, this captivating novel examines choices made and secrets kept.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 12, 2015 Categories: Books, Picks by Nancy, Staff Picks

Fiction: I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

Cover of I Take YouIn the course of the week before she’ll be hitched, Lily must finish up wedding planning, groom a lost cause for an emergency deposition, and try to figure out if she actually loves her fiancé, Will. Between Lily’s eclectic family containing her mother, two step-mothers, and a philandering father, Will’s uneasily impressed parents, and a weather-phobic wedding planner with a poor memory, the peculiar cast of Eliza Kennedy’s I Take You are up for a wild time. Lily’s breezy humor, boozy adventures, and knack for trying to sleep with every attractive man she sees throws a wrench in what could have possibly been a beautiful wedding week.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 7, 2015 Categories: Books, Humor

Book Discussion Questions: The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff

Cover of The Kommandant's GirlTitle: The Kommandant’s Girl
Author: Pam Jenoff
Page Count: 395 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance
Tone: Mesmerizing, Intrigue

Summary:
Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob’s Catholic cousin, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.
Emma’s already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob’s cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma’s relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

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

1. A Publisher’s Weekly review called The Kommandant’s Girl “historical romance at its finest”.

Is this a historical romance? Would you categorize it differently? Mira Books, which published the novel, is a division of Harlequin. Did it ever seem like a Harlequin romance novel?

If it is a historical romance, then romance between whom? Emma and Jacob? Or Emma and the Kommandant?

2. Did you believe the romance between Emma and Jacob?

3. Emma and Jacob were married only a few weeks before they were separated. How do you think the story might have been different if they had been married for six months? One year? Five?

4. Was Jacob right to leave the way he did? Do you think he knew what Emma was doing?

5. Did you believe the romance between Emma and the Kommandant? Did the age difference bother you? As Emma wonders, if they had met in a different world, a different time, do you think they could have been happy together? Were they “star-crossed lovers”?

6. Did you find yourself more invested in Jacob or in the Kommandant?

7. Did you find Emma a sympathetic character? heroic? Was she a believable 19-year-old?

8. What was the most difficult challenge faced by Emma? How did her choices affect others?

9. Did her attraction to the Kommandant make her situation easier? What if she had not had feelings for him?

10. Emma struggled not just with betraying her husband, but betraying her faith. Do you think her struggle was portrayed realistically? Would you say she was unfaithful? Given the circumstances, were her actions “right”? In other words, do the ends justify the means?

11. Another review (Booklist) claimed that the author “succeeded in humanizing the unfathomable as well as the heroic”. Would you agree that the Kommandant, for example, was humanized? Did you find him sympathetic? Why or why not? If so, were you uncomfortable (as Emma was) with your sympathy?

12. Was the Kommandant really going to shoot Emma?

13. What was your opinion of Malgorzata and her role in the story?

14. How does Lukasz change the story? What if it had just been Emma and Krysia involved in the deception? What does Krysia add?

15. How was the underground portrayed? Did you feel you understood the danger? What did you think of Alek? Was his death a surprise?

16. How did you feel about Marta? Did your feelings change at any point?

17. Was Jenoff’s choice to have Emma tell the story from her point of view a good one? Was it well-utilized?

18. This is a first novel for Jenoff. Is that apparent? How so? Do you like the author’s style?

19. What was the greatest strength of the book? Its most serious flaw?

20. The book was originally titled A Fine Crack of Light. What do you think that meant? Which title do you prefer?

21. Even among those who like the book, the ending is often singled out as somewhat flawed. Did it end the way you expected? Was it satisfying?

22. How might you respond to other concerns/ criticisms:

-too many coincidences, especially in closing chapters
-language (e.g., Emma’s habitual answering of “okay”)
-not as deep or as evocative as could have been (tells, doesn’t show)
-too-familiar story; market full of WWII fiction titles
-too serious a topic to treat lightly

23. Many authors have an idea and then research the time and place. Jenoff walked the streets, was immersed in stories, and then felt compelled to write. Can you tell? Did that serve the story well?

24. Did the book’s setting enhance the story? What about the individual settings, such as the ghetto?

25. What themes would you say are throughout the story? The publisher suggests “timeless themes of hope, struggle, defiance”; would you agree with these? Are there others you would add? How well were the themes addressed and/or communicated?

26. What was the purpose of the book? Was it to learn about history? Did you?

27. What’s next for Emma? Did she and Jacob have a happy life? Does she change her mind about telling Jacob about the baby? Should she?

28. What life do you predict Lukasz will lead?

Other Resources

Mount Prospect Public Library Discussion Resources
Harlequin Discussion Questions
Lit Lovers Reading Guide
Personal Q&A with Pam Jenoff
Interview with Jenoff about the book
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website
Kommandant’s Girl backstory

If you liked The Kommandant’s Girl, try…

Cover of The Lost WifeThe Lost Wife
by Alyson Richman

Cover of AnyaAnya
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

Cover of The Diplomat's WifeThe Diplomat’s Wife
by Pam Jenoff (sequel to The Kommandant’s Girl)

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on May 6, 2015 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction, Romance

Fiction: Heroes and Villains for Star Wars Day

May the 4th be with you! It’s Star Wars Day, and whether your allegiances are with the Rebel Alliance or the Imperial Forces, thrilling adventures await. The newest class of author recruits includes the best, brightest, and bestselling of science fiction and fantasy writers, so strap yourself in and return to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

For those who fight the good fight:

Razor's Edge book coverRazor’s Edge
by Martha Wells

Honor Among Thieves book coverHonor Among Thieves
by James S. A. Corey

Heir to the Jedi book coverHeir to the Jedi
by Kevin Hearne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those drawn to the Dark Side:

Maul Lockdown coverMaul Lockdown
by Joe Schreiber

Tarkin book coverTarkin
by James Luceno

Lords of the Sith book coverLords of the Sith
by Paul S. Kemp

 

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 4, 2015 Categories: Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi