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

Check It Out

Fiction: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Cover image of The Girl Who Fell from the SkyEleven- year-old Rachel is the sole survivor of a horrific tragedy claiming the lives of her mother, brother, and sister. With a father too grief-stricken to take care of her, Rachel is sent to live with her grandmother in Portland, Oregon. For the first time Rachel, who is biracial, deals with racism from all different members of her community. Woven in with Rachel’s coming-of-age tale is the story of the emotional events leading to the family’s tragedy and the rippling effect of decisions big and small. Peppered with heartbreaking insights and vivid imagery, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow is an absorbing story about survival, the mistakes humans make, family, and the role race has in identity.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on August 28, 2014 Categories: Books, Literary

Book Discussion Questions: The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

House on the Strand 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 House on the Strand
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Page Count: 298
Genre: Literary fantasy, Gothic fiction, Time travel
Tone: Mysterious, Atmospheric, Suspenseful

 

1.  Were you caught up in the book right away? Did you find it hard to follow?

2.  How did you feel about the narrative moving back and forth between time periods? Several critics have commented on the immense skill with which du Maurier keeps tension on both levels. Would you agree?

3.  Which time period /storyline did you find more interesting?

4.  What was your opinion of Richard, the narrator?

5.  Being the straight-laced man that he was, why did Richard try Magnus’ drug in the first place?

6.  How would you characterize the relationship between Magnus and Richard?

7.  What differences were there in the ways Magnus and Richard approached the experiments?

8.  Why do you think Roger was used as the link/guide/alter ego?

9.  Why did John Willis corroborate Richard’s testimony at the inquest?

10.  How important to the story is Vita? Why so?

•  Did you like her? Feel sorry for her? Were you increasingly annoyed by/with her as Dick was?
•  How would you characterize Richard and Vita’s relationship? Why is this so?
•  Why didn’t Richard tell Vita about the drug, especially after she became suspicious of him having an affair and acting so erratically?
•  In Latin, “Vita” translates as “life”. Do you think this was an intentional choice for du Maurier? What might this understanding add?

11.  Did you trust Dr. Powell? Was he right to release Richard when he did?

12.  What was the allure for Richard to keep going back to the past?

13.  Would you agree that this is a “story of addiction”? If so, was he addicted to the drug itself or to the stories he witnessed?

14. Was Richard actually time-traveling or merely hallucinating?

•  Were you satisfied with Dr. Powell’s theories at the end of the book?
•  If it were the drug, why did Magnus and Richard travel back to same period?

15.  Would you say the tone of the story is approving? marveling? objective?

16.  What did you think of the end of the book? Was it satisfying to you?

•  What really happened to Richard?
•  Du Maurier once wrote, “What about the hero of The House on the Strand? What did it mean when he dropped the telephone at the end of the book? I don’t really know, but I rather think he was going to be paralysed for life. Don’t you?” Does her statement surprise you?

17.  This book was written in 1969. Is the subject still topical? Would you recommend this book to others?

18.  How do du Maurier’s descriptions deepen and reinforce the themes in the novel?

19.  Growing up, du Maurier disliked the expectations and limitations of being a girl. How well does she write the male perspective? What other attitudes toward society are revealed in her story and characters?

20.  Du Maurier’s only disappointment with The House on the Strand was that a film version was not made. It was her favorite of all her books, and she had written it almost as a film script. Do you think it a story that could be successfully adapted as a movie or miniseries?

 

Other Resources

Daphne du Maurier author site
author interview from Kilmarth, a central location in The House on the Strand
BBC article:  “Walking in du Maurier’s Footsteps”
“The Cornwall of Daphne du Maurier”, originally published in British Heritage magazine

 

If you liked The House on the Strand, try…

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Distant Hours book coverThirteenth Tale book cover    Outlander book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on August 27, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Literary

Audiobooks: Audie Award Winners

Listen up! This year’s winners of the Audie Awards have been announced, celebrating the best audiobooks to bring giggles, sighs, knowledge, and excitement. Treat yourself to one of the top titles pictured below, and make the most of the fun by adding it to your Summer Reading Program log.

Still Foolin Em audiobook coverElephant Whisperer audiobook cover    Goldfinch audiobook cover

Audiobook of the Year: Still Foolin’ ‘Em, written and read by Billy Crystal
** also winner for Humor and for Narration by the Author
Biography/Memoir: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, read by Simon Vance
Literary Fiction: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu
** also winner for Solo Narration (Male)


David and GoliathDoctor Sleep audiobook coverUnleashed audiobook cover


Nonfiction:
David and Goliath, written and read by Malcolm Gladwell
Fiction: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, read by Will Patton
Mystery: Unleashed  by David Rosenfelt, read by Grover Gardner

Captain Vorpatrils Alliance audiobook coverLongest Ride audiobook coverThe Hit audiobook cover

Science Fiction: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, read by Grover Gardner
Romance: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks, read by Ron McLarty and January LaVoy
Thriller/Suspense: The Hit by David Baldacci, read by Ron McLarty with Orlagh Cassidy

Storm King audiobook coverHooray Anna Hibiscus

Distinguished Achievement in Production: The Storm King, written and read by Pete Seeger; presented by Jeff Haynes
Children’s:
Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, read by Mutiyat Ade-Salu

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on July 11, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Humor, Literary, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence 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 Age of Innocence
Author: Edith Wharton
Page Count: 362
Genre: Classic literature, Love stories, Social commentary
Tone: Bittersweet, Moving, Nostalgic, Satirical

 

1.  What do you make of Newland Archer? Is a hero, a victim, or something in between?

2.  Were his motivations selfless or selfish?

3.  Did Newland truly love either May or Ellen?

4.  Why do you think Wharton made Newland the lead character in her novel? How might the story be different if told from the Countess Olenska’s point of view? Or from May’s?

5.  For which character did you feel the strongest, either positively or negatively? Did your opinions evolve as the story progressed?

6.  Would Newland have been happier with Ellen?

7.  How might the story have been different if Newland and Ellen had embarked on a full affair, rather than a fairly conservative flirtation?

8.  Would you have liked to know more about Newland and May’s courtship? What might those details have revealed about the characters, about their marriage?

9.  What does Newland see in May at the beginning of the novel? What does he see in Ellen? What does each woman represent for him? What does each woman see in Newland?

10.  Some critics have described May as one of the great villains of American literature. Does that characterization surprise you? Is it a fair assessment? In what ways might she be considered villainous?

11.  Can you attach any symbolic significance to May’s skill with a bow and arrow? What does this side of her reveal about her character, about her relationship with Newland?

12.  How does the novel portray marriage? How does it portray passion and sexuality? Are the ideas surrounding each applied differently to the male and female characters?

13.  Is this a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, of love unrequited—or is it something else, something more? Is it a story of an affair or of a marriage?

14.  Some critics have called this novel a story of identity. Would you agree? What do you think it has to say about identity? How might this be a story about belonging?

15.  How much of our identity comes from the life we are born into versus the life we create for ourselves? How do you see this question working in the lives and identities of the characters in this novel?

16.  What other characters made an impression on you? How significantly did the peripheral characters influence the lives of Newland, May, and Ellen?

17.  Think about the title of this novel. Is it meant to be taken literally—was it truly an innocent time? Or is the title ironic? Who among these characters could be described as innocent?

18.  Wharton often expressed her dislike of modernity, her unhappiness with the hustle and bustle and lack of courtesy in modern life. Is her novel a piece of nostalgia for the “good old days”? In what ways might it be considered satire?

19.  Upon its publication, The Age of Innocence became an immediate sensation. Why do you think that is?

20.  Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, but only after some controversy where the prize was taken from its original recipient—Sinclair Lewis for Main Street (a biting social satire of small-town America). The Board of Trustees said Wharton’s novel “presented the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Was their assessment correct?

21.  It’s a novel about the very wealthy. Could a similar story be told about the very poor? What elements would be different? Which would be the same?

22.  It is certainly a novel of its time and place. Would you also consider it a timeless story? Do its themes resonate today?

23.  The novel ends with Newland deciding not to meet with Ellen later in life. Why do you think he made this decision? Did you want him to see her? What would you have done if you were him?

 

Other Resources
Reader’s Guide from the Big Read
The life and legacy of Edith Wharton
Painting believed to have inspired the title of Wharton’s novel
Edith Wharton/Sinclair Lewis Pulitzer Prize controversy
Roger Ebert’s review of Martin Scorsese’s 1993 film adaptation

 

If you liked The Age of Innocence, try…
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The Innocents book cover    The Magnificent Ambersons book coverMansfield Park book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By MPPL on July 9, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Literary

Fiction: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation book coverIn Jenny Offill’s slim, yet rich, second novel, a narrator known only as “the wife” details love’s dizzying beginnings, the leap of faith into marriage and parenthood, and the disorienting effects of a crumbling relationship—all in stream-of-consciousness bites both deeply personal and relatable. She teaches creative writing, her husband creates soundtracks for commercials, and their daughter rages, seemingly at war with the world. The wife’s mental health is precarious; though desperately in love with her small family, she feels unmoored. An infestation of bed bugs comes like a nightmare of a climax. And then there’s crushing betrayal. For fans of brutally honest domestic drama and protagonists oozing self-awareness, Dept. of Speculation will prove a compelling, quick, heartrending read.

By MPPL on May 1, 2014 Categories: Books, Literary

Fiction and Nonfiction: Awards Spotlight

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.  This week we invite you to check out a winner!

Are you drawn to the adventure and panorama of the West?  Try one or more of the Spur Awards honorees:

Light of the World book cover

Crossing Purgatory book cover

Spider Woman's Daughter book cover

Best Western Contemporary NovelLight of the World by James Lee Burke

Best Western Traditional NovelCrossing Purgatory by Gary Schanbacher

Best First NovelSpider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman

 

Have a taste for distinguished American writing?  Read a newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner:

Goldfinch book cover

Toms River book cover

Margaret Fuller book cover

FictionThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

General NonfictionToms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

Biography or AutobiographyMargaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

 

Which titles have the respect of their peers?  The Los Angeles Times Book Awards are chosen by working writers to celebrate how reading is an essential way of connecting with and understanding the world in which we live:

Tale for the Time Being book cover

Cuckoo's Calling book cover

We Need New Names book cover

FictionA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Mystery/ThrillerThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Art Seidenbaum Award for First FictionWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

 

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.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on April 18, 2014 Categories: Awards, Books, Lists, Literary, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction

Audiobook: Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Aimless Love book coverBilly Collins is the master of casual, accessible poetry. He can make Cheerios poetic. No joke! His poetry is especially charming when he is reading his work out loud. Aimless Love is a collection of Collins’ new and selected poems. It is an astoundingly reflective and joyful audiobook read by the poet himself. Collins, a former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, is the king of plain speech in contemporary poetry. He pens poems on subjects as diverse as living in the digital age, ancient history, and eating alone. This playful yet serious work is an excellent introduction for those who don’t normally read or listen to poetry.

By Readers' Advisor on April 3, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Literary

Poetry: Sound the Deep Waters

Sound the Deep Waters book coverSpring — finally! — and with it, a renewed appreciation for beauty and promise. Tickle your eyes and ears with the soul-stirring Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age. Editor Pamela Norris has collected verse from both familiar wordsmiths (the Brontë sisters, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti) and those equally deserving but less renown. Each poem in this slim keepsake volume is mirrored in a lush illustration of Pre-Raphaelite painting. Grouped into timeless themes which celebrate the loves, delights, dreams, and sorrows of life, the lyrical phrases speak to kindred spirits as well as to quiet contemplation. Snuggle into a window seat and discover modern truths in classic words and vibrant portraits.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 31, 2014 Categories: Books, Literary

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Five Days at Memorial book cover

Looking for something a little more substantial in your reading diet?  Check out the newly-named honorees of the National Book Critics Circle Awards.  The NBCC “honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature.”

NonfictionFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina–and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.  Also available in audio, e-book, and e-audio.

FictionAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected.

AutobiographyFarewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz
Describes the author’s long and painful relationship with Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake, tracing the country’s turbulent history and its status as a symbol of human rights activism and social transformation.

John Leonard PrizeA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in December 2004 Chechnya, a failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
Also available in large print, audio, and e-book.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 19, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Books, Lists, Literary, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Great Gatsby 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 Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Page Count: 172
Genre: Modern classic
Tone: Lyrical, atmospheric

 

1. Rarely does anyone write a book hoping it will be deconstructed in a lit classroom.  Authors write to provoke thought and feeling and to create a story that will speak to readers. So, in those respects, how was this reading experience for you?

2. Who is in the running for the most tragic character(s)?

3. What distinguishes Gatsby and Tom? Would you argue they are more alike or different? What about Daisy and Myrtle? Do you find yourself more accepting of certain characters’ behavior? Are we supposed to?

4. What about the book is relevant to our post-Great Recession world?

5. How would you characterize the tone of the novel? Fun? Sad? Idyllic? Angry? Something else?

6. Have you seen the latest film adaptation? Reportedly, the budget for Luhrmann’s film was over $120 million. Is that fitting? Ironic? What did you think of the film? Did you see the Robert Redford version? Which did you like better? Are the films similar in tone?

7.    Robert Redford explains that he wanted to play Gatsby because at the time he had not before “played a desperate man.” Would you agree this is a defining characteristic for Gatsby?

8. In his 1931 essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” Fitzgerald wrote, “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire.” How are these perceptions reflected in The Great Gatsby?

9. Did you find any humor in the story?

10. One word often mentioned in regards to The Great Gatsby is “romantic”. What do you think?

11. What do you know of Fitzgerald’s life? In what ways could The Great Gatsby be considered autobiographical? What might explain our fascination with this era and/or the Fitzgeralds in particular?

12. The Great Gatsby’s title was not Fitzgerald’s choice and never his favorite. How would the book’s reception be changed if it were instead called Trimalchio in West Egg, The High-Bouncing Lover, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, or Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires?

13. Critic Thomas C. Foster argues that this book isn’t about Gatsby. It’s about watching, seeing, and blindness (Twenty Five Books That Shaped America). What do you think he means?

14. Who is the protagonist of the book? Is it Gatsby? Nick?

15. How would you characterize Nick Carraway? Do you trust his perceptions? Is Nick Carroway an outsider, or is he one of them? Is this consistent throughout the story? How does this affect us as readers?

16. Could Daisy and Gatsby have had a happily-ever-after?

17. Is Daisy more a symbol than a character? What does her statement, “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” reveal about Daisy?

18. “[Gatsby’s] death preserves his greatness, and justifies the title of his story, a title that is anything but ironic.” (Harold Bloom, Jay Gatsby) Yet, other sources specifically point out the irony. What do you think?

19. In your experience, which of the other characters made the greatest impression on this reading:  Jordan, Tom, Myrtle, Wilson, Meyer, Mr. Gatz?

20. Is The Great Gatsby an indictment of the American Dream? Or is Fitzgerald championing it?

21. In what ways are illusion and disillusionment prevalent in the novel?

22. Would this have worked just as well (or even better) as a short story?

23. What did you notice about the language? The dialogue?

24. Gertrude Stein bestowed the label the Lost Generation on the group of American expatriate artists of the ‘20s. What qualities does this bring to mind? How does it inform the characters of The Great Gatsby?

25. Would you say that this is a fable of the 1920s? Are the characters merely caricatures? Either way, does this add to or detract from the story?

26. Do any of the characters learn a lesson? Change for the better or for the worse?

27. What are we to take away from the ending, especially considering who survives the book? Is it better not to dream? To be a Tom? What does the book have to say about being great? About being successful?

28. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, more than four years before the Wall Street crash. Why might this affect our understanding of the story and themes? Would it mean as much if it were published in the 1930s?

29. Why is this book so often taught to teenagers? What does it have to say to us at that age? How might your experience with the story differ as an adult?

30. Final words:  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” With what thoughts or feelings does this leave the reader?

 

Other Resources
The Big Read reading group guide
Simon and Schuster reading group guide
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library reading group guide
F. Scott Fitzgerald documentary
NPR interview with Baz Luhrmann
Reading The Great Gatsby as an adult
24 Things You Might Not Know about The Great Gatsby
7 Life Lessons from The Great Gatsby

 

If you liked The Great Gatsby, try…
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Z book cover     Object of Beauty book coverRules of Civility book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By Readers' Advisor on March 12, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Literary