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Audiobooks: Free Titles for Your Personal Digital Library

Rebecca digital audiobook coverWant great listens to take on the go? Try SYNC, a free summer audiobook program that gives away two themed titles each week for downloading. These are top-quality productions featuring standout performances, and though the design is to encourage literacy and listening in young people across the country, adults are finding new entertainment, too!

This week you can grab Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a gothic tale of dreamy suspense, and the bestselling Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia. Upcoming pairs include Dodger by Terry Pratchett with Dickens’ Great Expectations and March by Geraldine Brooks offered with Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. For details, visit the official website (www.audiobooksync.com) and plug in!

 

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 11, 2015 Categories: Audiobooks, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Literary

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

New in Historical Fiction: Girl Athletes, The Effects of War, Thrillers, The Creative Life

Every other Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books. Take a look below to check out some of the newest historical fiction titles that have arrived at the Library.

Girl Athletes

Cover of The Fair FightThe Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

Cover of Girl RunnerGirl Runner
by Carrie Snyder

Cover of GwendolenGwendolen
by Diana Souhami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Effects of War

Cover of A Slant of LightA Slant of Light
by Jeffrey Lent

Cover of The SympathizerThe Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Cover of The Last Flight of Poxl WestThe Last Flight of Poxl West
by Daniel Torday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Thrillers

Cover of Whisper HollowWhisper Hollow
by Chris Cander

Cover of The Bone Tree The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

Cover of Garden of LiesGarden of Lies
by Amanda Quick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Creative Life

Cover of Mademoiselle Chanel Mademoiselle Chanel
by C.W. Gortner

Cover of The Bridal Chair The Bridal Chair
by Gloria Goldreich

Cover of Paris RedParis Red
by Maureen Gibbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk or email us at readers@mppl.org to talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on April 24, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals

Fiction: The Immigrant Experience

Picture of Immigrant Experience Display
This week on our displays we are featuring books involving the Immigrant Experience. Displays are located on the second floor by the elevators and toward the start of Adult Fiction. Interested in being matched with a book suited to your taste? Stop by the Fiction/AV/Desk on the second floor to speak with a Readers’ Advisor or email us at readers@mppl.org. Check out some of the books below!

Cover of A Free Life Cover of Hedwig and Berti Cover of Giants in the Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Free Life by Ha Jin
Hedwig and Berti by Frieda Arkin
Giants in the Earth by O.C. Rölvaag

Cover of Threads of HopeCover of The Saint of Lost Things Cover of Let it Rain Coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threads of Hope by Andrea Boeshaar
The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani
Let It Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz

Cover of The Arrival Cover of The Book of Unknown Americans Cover of Desirable Daughters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
Desirable Daughters by Bharati Mukherjee

Cover of Panic in a Suitcase Cover of Americanah Cover of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on April 10, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists, Literary

Staff Pick: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Picture of MartaAddie Baum, The Boston Girl, recalls her life story to granddaughter Ava. Born in 1900 and saddled with a difficult mother, Addie must overcome poverty, gender roles, and lack of education. Author Anita Diamant has created a lovable character who peppers serious subjects with humorous asides and grandmotherly advice.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on March 17, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Marta, Staff Picks

Award Longlist: The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Previously known as the Orange Prize, Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is in its 20th year. This week the annual prize has released its longlist featuring 20 different titles with plans to reveal the shortlist April 13th. The award is dedicated to recognizing literary merit in women from around the world “…whilst also stimulating debate about gender and writing, gender and reading, and how the publishing and reviewing business works.”

Up for a challenge? Try to see if you can read all of the nominees before the announcement of the winner on June 3rd! Below are some of the titles Mount Prospect owns.

Cover of A God in Every StoneCover of The Girl Who Was Saturday Night Cover of The Country of Ice Cream Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

 

Cover of I Am China Cover of Dear Thief Cover of Elizabeth is Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am China by Xiaolu Guo
Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy

Cover of The Walk Home Cover of Station Eleven Cover of A Spool of Blue Thread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Cover of Outline Cover of The Paying Guests Cover of The Bees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outline by Rachel Cusk
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
The Bees by Laline Paull

 

Check out the previous winners!

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on March 13, 2015 Categories: Awards, Books, Historical Fiction, Lists, Literary

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every other Friday the Library will bring you 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.

New: Historical Fiction Books

Cover of Driving the King Cover of The Marriage Game Cover of A Touch of Stardust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving the King by Ravi Howard
The Marriage Game by Alison Weir
A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
Cover of The Secrets of Midwives Cover of Mrs. Grant and Madame Julie Cover of The Nightingale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Mrs. Grant and Madame Julie by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

New: Romance Books

Cover of The Unexpected Consequences of Love Cover of A Bad CharacterCover of Sweet Surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell
A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
Sweet Surprise by Candis Terry

Cover of Earls Just Want to have FunCover of The Years Cover of You're So Fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen
The Years by Nicholas Delbanco
You’re So Fine by Kieran Kramer

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on March 6, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Discussion Questions: Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord

Cover of Spring MoonTitle: Spring Moon
Author: Bette Bao Lord
Page Count: 464 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Tone: Lyrical, Poignant, Moving

Summary from publisher:
Behind the garden walls of the House of Chang, Spring Moon is born into an exclusive world of luxury and privilege. Her servant, Plum Blossom, attends to her every need and inadvertently alters the course of her life forever. Her uncle, Bold Talent, who has returned to China from the United States with radical new ideas, educates her against the wishes of the family, and intervenes at the moment when Spring Moon most needs his help. But the tempests of change sweep Spring Moon into a new world — one of hardship, turmoil, and heartbreak; one that threatens to destroy her husband, her family, and her darkest secret love.

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

1. What was Bette Bao Lord’s purpose in writing this novel?

2. One review (New York Times 12/1/81) felt that Lord covered too much history in her novel and that it overwhelmed her characters. Do you agree or disagree?

3. What was Lord’s reason for providing the stories in italics at the beginning of each chapter? Did it add or detract from the story?

4. What was Spring Moon’s role in this story? Was Spring Moon the main character of the novel?

5. How would you describe the relationship between Spring Moon and Lustrous Jade? How did that relationship change throughout the years?

6. On page 350, why did Spring Moon demand that Lustrous Jade kneel before her? Why was it so difficult for Lustrous Jade to kneel before her mother, yet she easily kneeled before shopkeepers and others to get them to join her cause?

7. Did you feel that August Winds and Lustrous Jade belonged together as man and wife?

8. How did the role of the family change or not change in China?  Consider the theme of devotion to family versus devotion to one’s principles. What characters were more devoted to family? What characters were devoted to their principles? Was it possible for them to be devoted to both?

9. What were the differences in the love Spring Moon had for her first husband, Glad Promise, and the love she had for her lover Bold Talent?

10. Do you think the clan suspected the love between Bold Talent and Spring Moon? Were they jealous of Spring Moon’s ability to read?

11. Did Bold Talent love his wife, Golden Virtue?

12. Do you think Bold Talent knew that Enduring Promise was his and Spring Moon’s son? What about Golden Virtue?

13. On page 248, Spring Moon was about to leave Bold Talent to return to her mother-in-law, and Bold Talent talked about what was wrong with the Chinese. He said, “Do you not see what is wrong. In the end, we always yield – to tradition, to foreigners, to family, to authority, to duty. To everything and everybody, living and dead-except our needs, our dreams, our passions! If we do live for ourselves, it is not for long. A moment here, a month there. As long as no one knows. As long as nothing is truly changed. Then, once more we yield. Once more we live as others would have us live.” Do you agree with this assessment?

14. How did you feel when Spring Moon took her son away from Dummy and her husband?

15. What was the relationship between Lustrous Jade and August Winds? How about between Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit? How were they similar and how were they different?

16. On page 383, in a letter to Bold Talent talking about parading elders in dunce caps across public squares, Noble Talents asks, “Is this what revolution means?” What did revolution mean to Lustrous Jade?

17. How did you feel when Bold Talent, Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit left Bold Talent’s body behind in order to smuggle Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit to safety?

18. How did the women of the Chang family change throughout the years?

Other Resources

Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Interview with Bette Bao Lord
Video interview with Bette Bao Lord

If you liked Spring Moon, try…

Cover of Twentieth WifeCover of Snowflower and the Secret Fan Cover of The Bathing Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Bathing Women by Tie Ning

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 25, 2015 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Fiction: To Please a Lady by Susan Johnson

To Please a Lady book coverRoxane Forrestor, twice-widowed Scottish beauty and Countess of Kilmarnock, has succeeded in keeping several powerful suitors at bay, but her defenses are tested when a wanted rebel earl surprises her in her bedchamber. No matter how her heart feels, she must keep her head. The safety of her children may depend on it. Author Susan Johnson is celebrated for scenes of sizzling seduction, and To Please a Lady lives up to that promise. Balancing rich historical detail and dramatic turns of story, this early novel doesn’t shy from exploring heated encounters while maintaining brisk pacing. The partnering of an older woman with a persistent younger man isn’t often represented in historical romances, but breaking with convention only adds to the intensity of Robbie and Roxane’s love story.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 9, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Romance

Movies and TV: The Wind Rises

The Wind RisesWind Rises DVD cover is a flight of fancy worthy to be the swan song of master animator Hayao Miyazaki. All of his hallmarks are on display: sweet yet dramatic storytelling, artful scenes, and an underlying whimsy that bubbles with imagination. It is the history of Jirô, a young man with a genius for designing aircraft, who often takes inspiration from imagined jaunts with an Italian aviation pioneer. A recurring line of poetry, “The wind is rising!  We must try to live!” quivers with thematic resonance not only against the backdrop of war, illness, and natural disaster, but also in the tentative steps toward selfless love. Both ambitious and intimate, this Academy Award nominee is at its brightest when celebrating the small moments that lead to epiphanies.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 2, 2015 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and TV, Romance