Little 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.
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Detective 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.
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.
Marta 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…
In 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.
Want 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!
Taste of Cinema has explored the idea of intentionally watching films that are paced slowly, in their list 20 Slow Films From This Century That Rewards Patience. These films might not have an immediate payoff or packed to the brim with action, but their in-depth look at characters, life, and the surrounding world allow for a different kind of film watching experience. Try one and let us know what you think at the Fiction/AV/Teen services desk on the second floor.
In 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.
Title: The Kommandant’s Girl
Author: Pam Jenoff
Page Count: 395 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Tone: Mesmerizing, Intrigue
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.
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?
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…
Sound & Color is Alabama Shakes follow-up album to their Grammy-nominated debut, Boys and Girls. The music is rooted in bluesy rock with a wide range of influences including elements of punk and heavy metal. What really drives the album is the soulful, raw vocals of Brittany Howard. Adding to the vocals are funky rhythms interspersed with passionate guitar riffs and perfectly timed melodic keyboarding. This album is pure toe-tapping fun.