NW by Zadie Smith highlights the paradoxes in human existence. It follows the lives of four London friends who grew up in the same impoverished area of northwest London. Ideas of class and ethnicity are major players in this character-driven, passionate story that keeps you guessing on what comes next.
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Ghosts in the graveyard. Knocks at the door when no one is there. Houses cursed with madness. In our experience, horror that is only hinted can be much more terrifying than outright gore. Let the masters add an extra thrill to otherworldly nights with Edward Gorey’s Haunted Looking Glass. Fall under the spell of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs or of “The Dream Woman” by Wilkie Collins. Stories from none other than Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson will make you think twice about trusting your own eyes and ears. Each gothic chill is prefaced by one of Edward Gorey’s original creepy-cute illustrations. Whether you prefer the odd or the truly frightening, this collection will satisfy your hunger for spooky.
The term “art house” implies that a movie is more experimental or artistic than the blockbuster, popular norm. Art house films can be of any genre and look to stretch their audience, as well as entertain them.
Make your Halloween fangtasticly strange. Click here for art house horror films.
Last year, Michael Gruber’s The Good Son made it onto Stephen King’s Entertainment Weekly column, “The Best Books I Read in 2012”. Gruber’s back with another action-packed standalone, The Return. Richard Marder has an inoperable brain tumor that could kill him at any time. He wants to get his life in order and that means punishing the drug lord he blames for his wife’s suicide. Marder goes to Mexico to bury his wife’s ashes and take vengeance. With the help of an old army buddy and a gang of squatters on his property, Marder goes to war with two drug cartels. If you like movies like Red, The Expendables, and Die Hard, try Michael Gruber’s novel The Return.
If you like dry English humor, then Kind Hearts and Coronets is for you. Louis plots the demise of family members, shortening the line of succession to become Duke. His conniving and lust for revenge is punctuated with humorous circumstances and whimsical dialog as he romances, manipulates, and eliminates his relatives.
It’s a good bet you already know the work of Edward Curtis. Open any American history book that discusses Native Americans, and there will likely be illustrations attributed to him. These timeless portraits are striking in their balance of dignity and intimacy, and they represent one man’s lifelong crusade to document a vanishing culture. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan is the inaugural winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Read about the adventurer who was obsessive to the point of risking his life, losing his family, and finishing destitute. His legacy is not only the photographs which have become the defining images of the First Nations but also the heroic story which brought them to be.
You’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.
Are young Americans being properly trained for complex thought and competing in a global economy? Amanda Ripley, a Times journalist, studied this issue through the lives of three American teens studying abroad in The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Kim is a 15-year old who leaves Oklahoma for Finland. Eric is 18 and leaves Minnesota for South Korea. Tom is 17 and takes Poland over Pennsylvania. Ripley examines why a handful of countries are gaining critical thinking skills and outpacing America in subjects across the board. As Ripley examines the data, Kim, Tom, and Eric give her the inside scoop or what student life is like and how the educational mindset of teenagers in other countries compares to the United States.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbough
Page Count: 322
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Engaging, emotional
1. The story starts with a fire. What happens to Victoria? How does she react?
2. The Language of Flowers goes back and forth in time and each section is titled. What’s the first section called and how does it fit Victoria?
3. What do you think of Meredith, Victoria’s caseworker? Could she have done more for Victoria?
4. What flower does Victoria choose to give Meredith? Is Victoria’s assessment fair?
5. Meredith leaves Victoria with $20 and the advice to get a job. What does Victoria do instead? Why do you think she is so unconcerned with her future?
6. Why does Elizabeth begin trying to reconnect with her sister? Did you sympathize with Elizabeth’s focus on this?
7. How does Victoria test Elizabeth at the beginning? What happens after this initial testing period? What does Elizabeth tell Victoria about her behavior?
8. What characters come into Victoria’s life? Did you like them? Why or why not? What did you think of the “flower vendor” at first? Did your opinion change?
9. Victoria doesn’t recognize Grant at the flower market. What does he give her and how does she respond?
10. Victoria ends up in the library to find out the meaning of white poplar. What other discovery does she make and why is this problematic?
11. Is Victoria able to see nuances in life? Elaborate.
12. How does Grant court Victoria? Why does he persist with her? Are there any signs at all that she wants a relationship?
13. Grant learns to cook, lets Victoria sleep in his home and nurtures her interest in creating a flower book of her own. Is he an unrealistic character or do you think he’s a good guy and she got lucky?
14. Things are going well for Victoria at the flower shop. What talent does she discover that she has?
15. Do flowers really have the power to change outcomes for people? What do you think happened with Earl and Bethany?
16. What keeps Elizabeth from adopting Victoria? What did you think of her ennui? Why did Elizabeth say she couldn’t go through with the adoption? Was Elizabeth fit to be a mom?
17. How does Grant respond when Victoria tells him that they will never be like that old couple? What brings them back together? Why do you think Victoria keeps coming back to Grant when she so adamantly insists that she can’t love?
18. What sparks Victoria to make love with Grant? She initiated the encounter, but where is her mind during it? How does she respond to the news that she is pregnant?
19. What struck you as realistic and not realistic inVictoria’s pregnancy and delivery scenes? Were you surprised that Victoria avoided Mother Ruby as a source of help? As her labor became intense, who did Victoria want with her and why?
20. What flower does Victoria give Grant when she leaves? What does it mean?
21. Where did Victoria get the idea to set the fire and why did she do it? Why does she never speak up, even when Elizabeth is accused?
22. Did Victoria change when she became a mother? How do you know? Did motherhood change how Victoria views others? How comfortable were you with Victoria’s experience as a new mom?
23. How does the baby react after Victoria’s night in the woods?
24. What did you think of the end of The Language of Flowers?
25. Victoria said, “I wanted more than anything to be Elizabeth’s daughter.” She doesn’t mention being Grant’s wife. Was one relationship more pivotal than the other? Do you think this reflects the author’s views?
26. In your opinion, was this book realistic? Did parts of it seem more true to life than others?
27. Victoria’s life so easily could have had a different outcome. To your mind, who was the most instrumental in helping her have a fulfilling adulthood? Was it just one person?
28. Is this book an annual – something enjoyed for a season – or is it destined to be a perennial – something people come back to year after year?
29. Diffenbaugh said she wrote this book because she has strong feelings about the foster care system. What do you think her views are after reading this book? Do you think this book can make a difference in the foster care system? How?
30. In the end, Victoria answers the question Diffenbaugh posed – can someone who’s never been loved learn how to do so? Do you believe this is true or is it wishful thinking?
If you liked The Language of Flowers, try…
Jesse Eisenberg lends his engaging voice to the mafia-inspired supernatural mystery, White Cat by Holly Black. Cassel comes from a family of curse workers who have certain “abilities.” When a white cat shows up in his dreams and his reality, Cassel knows something is very wrong.