Find
10 South Emerson, Mount Prospect, IL 60056 | 847/253-5675
Font:

Check It Out

Lists: Alternate Histories on Audiobook

Hitler's War book coverAlternate history is a genre that explores “what if” questions. What if Hitler was killed early in his life? What if JFK was never assassinated? What if the Black Death had killed 99% of Europe and not 33%? These are the sort of questions authors ask and then let the domino effect splatter from their pens.

Click here to listen to the best alternate history audiobooks the Library has to offer.

By Readers' Advisor on December 6, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Lists

Staff Pick: Mistress by Amanda Quick

Denise staff picks photoIphiginia Bright is a witty, impertinent woman ready to break free of her role as a staid schoolmistress, but is she equipped to handle her newest role…as the Earl of Masters’ mistress? Amanda Quick’s historical romance Mistress will have you laughing and turning pages to see what happens next.

By Readers' Advisor on November 5, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Denise, Romance, Staff Picks

Book Discussion Questions: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Shadow of the Wind 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 Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Page Count: 486
Genre: Historical fiction
Tone: Literary, intricate, mysterious

 

1. What did you think of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books?  Would you like to explore such a place?

2. Before you began the book, did you have any expectations?  How did this meet, exceed, or disappoint them?

3. It is said that each of us reads a different book, because we all bring our own experiences and preconceptions and thoughts to our reading. What book did you read? There’s so much to absorb in this book; what stands out to you?

a. The love story (-ies)?
b. The mystery of Julian Carax?
c. The Javert-like Inspector Fumero?
d. Other?

4. “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” (p. 215) Do you agree? In what ways was this your experience while reading The Shadow of the Wind?

5. Why do you think the novel (and the fictional novel by Julian Carax) is called The Shadow of the Wind?

6. The character of Fermin plays many roles in the course of the story. What are they? How does he impact the plot?

7. In what ways are Daniel and Fermin good for each other?

8. What roles do Daniel’s parents play in the story?

9. What are some of the significant turning points in the book?

10. How did Daniel’s first encounter with Lain Coubert affect him? What did you make of this shadowy character? At what point did you realize his true identity?

11. What is the significance of Victor Hugo’s Mont Blanc pen?

12. How would you characterize Zafon’s use of language?

13. How are women portrayed in the book?

14. How does Daniel’s life begin to parallel Carax’s? How did you feel about this?

a. Though they follow very similar trajectories, one ends in tragedy and the other in happiness. What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?
b. What is the relationship between Carax and Daniel?

15. Did Julian deserve for Miguel and Nuria to lay down their lives for him?

16. How does the setting – Spain under Franco – affect the story? Could the story have taken place somewhere other than Barcelona?

17. How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon different characters?

18. Who would you say is the pivot around which the events of the story revolve: Carax or Fumero?

19. How would you describe the tone of The Shadow of the Wind?

20. How do suspense and humor work together in the novel? Does the existence of one reduce the impact of the other, or is the book enhanced by the use of both?

21. What is the view of evil within the book as a whole? What does it see as evil? What does it see as the solution to evil?

22. Which values and perspectives are encouraged by this book? Which does it discourage?

23. Did the story keep your interest throughout? Did your feelings about it change as you read it?

24. What did you think of the ending, in which Daniel introduces his son Julian to the Cemetery?

25. What are some criticisms of the book? Why might someone not like it?

 

Other Resources

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s website
Reading Group Guide discussion questions
Buttery Books’ book club party ideas
Telegraph interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón on bookstores closing
Wikipedia entry on the Spanish Civil War

 

If you liked The Shadow of the Wind, try…

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell book cover     Gargoyle book coverClub Dumas book cover

 

By Readers' Advisor on October 30, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

LISTS: Circus and Carnival Books and Movies

Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb book coverYou’ve done Water for Elephants, next you read The Night Circus, but now you’re at a loss. Don’t be! The midway is waiting for you, full of love, thrills, funnel cake, and exotica. The Library will help you run away to the circus.

Click here for circus and carnival fiction.
More in the mood for nonfiction? Click here.
Feel like sitting back and watching a carnie flick? Click here.

By Readers' Advisor on October 18, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists, Movies and Television

Historical Fiction on the Jersey Shore

Palisades Park book coverEddie and Adele sell French fries at Palisades Park not far from the Cyclone roller coaster. The Stopka’s food stall becomes a family business when their children, Toni and Jack, come along. It’s easy to dream big when you’re surrounded by the beauty and continuous fun of Palisades…but eventually reality causes cracks in the Stopka’s wonderland. Palisades Park by Alan Brennert – author of Moloka’I – follows the Stopka family as the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, fire, race riots, and the rest of the 20th century unfold around them. If you like richly-detailed historical fiction, nostalgic Americana, or deep family stories, try Palisades Park.

By Readers' Advisor on October 3, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany book cover

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

 

Title: Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Author: Susan Vreeland
Page Count: 405
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Literary, lush

 

1. Do you think Vreeland accurately portrayed the Gilded Age?

2. What do you think it would have been like to have lived during the Gilded Age as a woman? What about as a man?

3. How does New York City come across in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? Does it become another character in the novel? Why or why not?

4. How many men did Clara love? Who were they? What caused her to be attracted to each one? Were there any problems that sprouted from her love life?

5. What were Clara’s personal goals? Were they similar goals to other ladies of her era? Did she achieve them?

6. What activities brought Clara enjoyment and made her feel free and full of life? What things did she detest?

7. Was Clara a likeable character? Did you want to see her succeed? If you could change something about her circumstances, what would it be?

8. What other characters struck you? Was there anyone you didn’t like?

9. What are some of the social contrasts that appear in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? How do these contrasts shape Clara’s character?

10. In what ways was Clara a progressive woman? How did her politics affect her life?

11. What kind of experience did Clara have at her first Tiffany Ball? (Chapter 9) Who did she go with? What did she learn?

12. How do Clara and Alice describe Tiffany? (Chapter 27) What are Clara’s true feelings for Mr. Tiffany?

13. Was Mr. Tiffany a progressive man? Why or why not? Did he have any conservative leanings?

14. How would you describe Louis Tiffany? Was he a good artist? Was he a good man?

15. Do you think that Clara should have continued working at Tiffany Studios? Why or why not?

16. What place was Edwin moved by? Why? What were iconic places and objects of the Gilded Age?

17. Susan Vreeland is described as a lush and lyrical writer. Can you think of any examples of when she made you feel immersed in a scene or wading in the poetry of her prose?

18. Has anyone read any other books by Vreeland? Was this book similar or different to her other novels? Would you read more by her?

19. Do you think things have changed for women in the arts?

20. Who would you recommend this book to? Why?

 

Other Resources

Susan Vreeland’s website
Vreeland’s book discussion questions
NPR interviews Susan Vreeland
Susan Vreeland on Beauty and the Book
Susan Vreeland at Warwick’s Books

Stop by the Reference Desk for nonfiction books and online resources on Louis Comfort Tiffany and company.

 

If you liked Clara and Mr. Tiffany, try…

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Remarkable Creatures book cover     Stealing Athena book coverLoving Frank book cover

By Readers' Advisor on September 4, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Masters of the PEN

Behind the Beautiful Forevers book coverThe PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, one of the most decorated books of 2012, added yet another well-deserved accolade in the John Kenneth Gailbraith Award for Nonfiction.  Additional highlights include

Literary Science Writing Award: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

Award for Literary Sports Writing: Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion by Mark Kram, Jr.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: Frank Deford

Award for Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Open Book Award: Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

Translation Prize: The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White

By Readers' Advisor on August 28, 2013 Categories: Awards, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary, Nonfiction

Barb’s Pick: A Royal Affair

Barb's staff picks photoYou must check out the Danish costume drama A Royal Affair.  It is based on the true story of a fiery and forbidden romance between an insane Danish king, his royal physician, and the independent-minded Queen. This affair leads to a revolt that changes a nation.

By Readers' Advisor on August 20, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and Television, Picks by Barb B., Staff Picks

Barb F.’s Pick: Rules of Civility

Barb F. Staff picks photoIt’s New York City in 1938. Katy Kontent moves from the secretarial pool at a law firm to the upper echelon of society. In Rules of Civility, Amor Towles creates a wonderful depiction of life in New York City filled with witty dialogue, intense friendships, and a fabulous heroine.

By Readers' Advisor on July 30, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Barbara F., Staff Picks

Larry’s Pick: The Girl Who Played Go

Larry Staff picks photoThe Girl who Played Go is a touching, intimate novel set in the 1930s. A Japanese soldier and a teenage girl both struggle with their roles in Manchurian-Chinese society. The Chinese strategy game of Go, which draws the characters together, is a metaphor for their lives in search of self.

By Readers' Advisor on July 23, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Larry, Staff Picks