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Fiction: The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker

The Big Crowd book coverIf you want historical fiction set in New York, Kevin Baker is the author for you. His latest novel, The Big Crowd, explores the life of Charlie O’Kane – a real immigrant who came to NYC and worked his way up from beat cop to district attorney to mayor. Tom, Charlie’s younger brother, sees Charlie as everything good in a city that’s gone bad. The brothers live the high life…until Charlie is accused of murder and Tom sets out to clear his name. A sprawling family saga intertwined with a mob mystery, The Big Crowd is a great read for those who like dramatic historical fiction, The Godfather, or chronicles of New York.

By Readers' Advisor on February 20, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Historical Fiction Books

Mrs. Lincoln's Rival book cover

The Pagan Lord book cover

An Officer and a Spy book cover

•    Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jenniver Chiaverini

•    The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

•    An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

•    Motherland by Maria Hummel

•    The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

•    The Ghost of Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

•    I Shall be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

•    Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland

•    The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

•    The Kept by James Scott

New: Romance Books

Hope Flames book cover

How to Master your Marquis book cover

Sweetest Mistake book cover

•    The Scandal in Kissing an Heir by Sophie Barnes

•    Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

•    Dark Wolf by Christine Feehan

•    How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray

•    Sugar by Jenna Jameson

•    The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell

•    Wuthering Nights by I.J. Miller

•    First Love by James Patterson

•    Sweetest Mistake by Candis Terry

•    What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

By Readers' Advisor on February 14, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Book Discussion Questions: Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Homer and Langley book cover

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

 

Title: Homer and Langley
Author: E.L. Doctorow
Page Count: 208
Genre: Historical fiction, Biographical novels
Tone: Lyrical, dark, complex

 

1. In an interview on NPR, E.L. Doctorow said that the first line of this book was pivotal for him; he could not have done this book without this 1st sentence. It implies the texture of the entire text. Does anyone remember the 1st line? What is its importance to the reader?

2. Given this opening, how do you think Homer emotionally and physically handled his blindness? Do you think it was a “normal” reaction?

3. Homer went blind in his last 14 years of life from a stroke, not in his earlier years. Does this change your opinion of him?

4. Do you remember the description of their house? Do you think of the house as a character as well as the setting?

5. Do you think the house’s condition reflects the brothers’ own physical and mental conditions?

6. How would you describe Homer at the beginning of the story? What about Langley? What were their parents like?

7. What events happen in Homer and Langley’s lives that change everything?

8. What was Homer’s reaction to his parents’ death?

9. What effect did the WWI have on Langley? Did it change him? How would the brothers’ lives have been different if there had been no war?

10. What was Langley’s “Theory of Replacements”? Does the theory have any merit?

11. Langley is obsessive in his quest to create one universal newspaper of “seminal events”. What categories were used by Langley so that the newspaper would be “eternally current”? Why was this project so important to him?

12. There was an eclectic assortment of people who came into Homer and Langley’s lives. Do you feel that the brothers collected people the way that Langley collected objects? Did these people have anything in common?

13. Besides Homer and Langley, who are the most memorable character for you and why?

14. At one point, the Collyer brothers host tea dances in their home and charge their neighbors for the opportunity to drink and dance. Are the tea dances connected to Homer and Langley later becoming reclusive? Were they ever raided? If so, what happened after they were raided?

15. When WWII begins, the Hoshiyama’s, American born people of Japanese descent, are persecuted. What happens to them? Why? Is this based on history? What was your reaction to their persecution?

16. After the Hoshiyama’s were sent to an internment camp Langley said, “…We are not free if at someone else’s sufferance…” What did he mean by that?

17. After Harold Robileaux is killed in Africa, Grandmamma goes to New Orleans to be with his wife and baby. “Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.” Do you think things would still have gotten so bad is she had not left the brothers?

18. What did you think of the gas masks Langley bought? Why did he buy them?

19. Do you think the Collyer brothers tried to be completely self-reliant? What were their tactics? Were they successful?

20. Do you think the brothers were any crazier than the people around them?

21. Why do you think the press became so interested in their predicament?

22. What is the importance of Jacqueline? Did she remind you of anybody of that era? Do you think Jacqueline actually existed?

23. Do you think it was a sacrifice for either brother to stay in the house?

24. As is often the case in historical fiction, the author took liberties with known facts about the Collyer brothers. Why do you think E.L. Doctorow made these changes and how does it affect the dynamics between the two brothers? Do you think these changes made the characters more sympathetic?

25. How heavily did the hoarding take up your attention as a reader? Do you think hoarding is an unsettling disorder to observe? Why or why not?

 

Other Resources

E.L. Doctorow’s website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Cornell University book guide
Weber State University book discussion
WNYC radio interview
Inside the Collyer home
Collyer brothers Wikipedia

 

If you liked Homer and Langley, try…

Spooner by Pete Dexter
Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee

Spooner cover     Keepsake coverStuff book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 12, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Staff Pick: Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

Patty staff picks photoScott goes to live with his hilariously awkward and selfish Grandma Ruby and helps take care of his Uncle Nathan who has cerebral palsy. Crapalachia is a dark, lyrical portrait of a warts-and-all coming of age in modern day West Virginia. Loved. This. Book.

By Readers' Advisor on February 11, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Picks by Patty

New: Fiction and Nonfiction

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Fiction Books

Redhead Plays her Hand book cover

Under the Wide and Starry Sky book cover

Crane Wife book cover

1. Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

2. The Redhead Plays her Hand by Alice Chayton

3. Amor and Psycho: Stories by Carolyn Cooke

4. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

5. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

6. House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty

7. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

8. Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

9. The Well-tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker

10. The Empty Chair: Two Novellas by Bruce Wagner

New: Nonfiction Books

Duty: A Secretary at War book cover

Wild Tales book cover

American Mirror book cover

1. Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling

2. Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist by Jim Elledge

3. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates

4. What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of a 90-something Track Star and What she can Teach us About Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson

5. I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers and the March up Freedom’s Highway by Greg Kot

6. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

7. Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life by Graham Nash

8. The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry by Mark Ribowsky

9. Company Man: 39 Years of Controversy and Crisis in the C.I.A. by John Anthony Rizzo

10. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Normal Rockwell by Deborah Solomon

By Readers' Advisor on February 7, 2014 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Denise staff picks photoYou wouldn’t expect to enjoy a romance novel where the hero has very few redeeming qualities, yet somehow the chemistry between flawed Sebastian and the gorgeous bluestocking, Jessica, works. Filled with witty repartee and fast-paced dialogue, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is a must-read for romance fans!

By Readers' Advisor on February 4, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Picks by Denise, Romance

Staff Pick: One Goal II: The Inside Story of the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks by Bob Verdi

One Goal 2 book coverDiane of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends One Goal II: The Inside Story of the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks by Bob Verdi:

From the streak to the Stanley Cup, One Goal II and the 53 minute long DVD 17 Seconds (which comes with the book) portray the inside story of the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. The hardcover book and DVD provide an all-access pass inside the locker room party in Boston, the airplane ride home with the Cup following Game 6, and interviews with the players. Through full color photos, fans ride along on the players’ buses during the championship parade and follow the Blackhawks as they spend their Cup days with family and friends, sharing the greatest trophy in sports with their communities.

Additionally, the book contains an innovative, mini video screen. It plays the Blackhawks’ two goals in 17 seconds to win the Cup and a five-minute feature with interviews about those two goals and the ensuing celebration.

By Readers' Advisor on February 3, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Movies and Television, Nonfiction, Picks by Diane

New: Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Mystery Books

Kill Order book cover

Old Black Magic book cover

Killing Cupid book cover

1. The Kill Order by Robin Burcell

2. That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark

3. The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

4. Rituals by Mary Anna Evans

5. The Devil’s Breath by Tessa Harris

6. Killing Cupid by Laura Levine

7. Dead Man’s Fancy by Keith McCafferty

8. Rebellion by James McGee

9. The Blood Promise by Mark Pryor

10. Snapshot by Lis Wiehl

New: Thriller and Suspense Books

 North of Boston book cover

River Road book cover

Worthy Brown's Daughter book cover

1. The Secret History of Las Vegas by Christopher Abani

2. North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

3. Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach

4. River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz

5. Worthy Brown’s Daughter by Phillip Margolin

6. Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates

7. Innocent Blood by James Rollins

8. Pandemic by Scott Sigler

9. The Polaris Protocol by Brad Taylor

10. Before we Met by Lucie Whitehouse

By Readers' Advisor on January 31, 2014 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, New Arrivals

Fiction: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Big Brother book coverPandora lives in Iowa, owns a small business, and has a guest room that is about to be occupied by her brother – the idol of her younger years – Edison. When Pandora goes to the airport to pick up Edison, she sees that he has gotten bigger. Now 400 pounds, Edison seems intent on killing himself with food. After a two-month stay, Pandora has to choose between saving her marriage and saving her brother, if either can be done at all. Lionel Shriver is known for her reflective, issue-driven, contemporary fiction. In Big Brother, Shriver passionately, kindly dissects the American obesity epidemic and how one family chooses to stop participating in it.

By Readers' Advisor on January 30, 2014 Categories: Books

Book Discussion Questions: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help book cover

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

 

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Page Count: 534
Genre: Historical fiction
Tone: Moving, fast-paced, uplifting

 

1. Who were the heroes of The Help? Why?

2. What characters did you feel most connected to? Why?

3. Were there moments in The Help where you despised a character? Why? When? Are there any characters in The Help who have no redeeming qualities?

4. Who is Hilly? Do you think she is a good friend? What about a good employer? Do you think she is a good mother? Can the reader connect to Hilly? Why or why not?

5. Who is Elizabeth? Do you think she is a good friend? Is she a good employer? Do you think she is a good mother? Can the reader connect to Elizabeth? Why or why not?

6. Does Skeeter want to get married? Who does she find to marry? Do you think it is a good match?

7. What is the outcome of Skeeter and Stuart’s relationship? Why? What was Skeeter’s reaction?

8. Aibileen takes care of Mae Mobley. Do you think the child and Aibileen would have remained close as Mae aged? Do you think Mae would’ve become a racist like her mother? Can you be racist and still care for someone? Is that right or wrong? Is racism a nature or nurture character trait?

9. What was Minny’s revenge against Miss Hilly? Do you think this was right or wrong? Would you have taken revenge this far?

10. Stockett uses dialect when writing her African American characters. What did this add to the story? Did you ever find it hard to read or distracting? Can you think of other good books that use heavy dialect?

11. Did the Caucasian characters speak in dialect? Why or why not? Do you think this is problematic?

12. Racism is an obvious prejudice in The Help. Are any characters discriminated against for other reasons?

13. Do you feel as if Celia’s struggle is equal to Aibileen or Minny’s struggle? Why or why not?

14. Did it surprise you to find out that The Help was written by a Southern, white woman? What was your reaction to learning the author’s heritage?

15. The Help received rave reviews and became a best seller, but it also received negative reviews. What are some reasons that people might not like this book?

16. Some of the negative reviews mentioned that Stockett never truly got inside Aibileen and Minny’s heads. Do you think this is true?

17. Some critics of The Help believe the book to suffer from the “white savior complex”. This is a plot device where a Caucasian character becomes the benevolent benefactor of “helpless” persons of color. For example, think about movies like Avatar, The Blind Side, and Freedom Writers.

•    Critics state that these films are not about justice, they are about having an emotional experience that validates privilege. What does that mean? Does that connect back to The Help?
•    In addition, “…these films capitalize on the stories of people of color, yet instead of telling the film through their eyes, they are presented as stories of the white people who help them.” How is that problematic? Do you see this happening in The Help?

18. Do you think Kathryn Stockett is a good writer? Why or why not? Do you understand why The Help was so wildly popular?

19. Does racism still exist today? In what forms? How can we combat it?

20. What other novels would you recommend that strongly deal with racism? What is the benefit of reading a novel on such a heavy issue?

 

Other Resources

Kathryn Stockett’s website
Penguin publisher website for The Help
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
CliffsNotes on The Help
Interview with Katie Couric
Interview with Southern Living

 

If you liked The Help, try…

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Space Between Us by Thrity N.

Secret Life of Bees book cover     To kill a Mockingbird book coverSpace Between Us book cover

By Readers' Advisor on January 29, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books