Month: October 2013

Horror for Every Appetite

Brood X book coverWant a gritty, dark horror novel? Last Days by Adam Nevill is the leisurely tale of an indie filmmaker shooting a documentary on the cult The Temple of the Last Days, all of whose members were murdered. As the shoot progresses, evil has awoken and people start dying.

How about literary, uncanny short stories? Try Nalo Hopkinson’s anthology of dark fantasy and horror, Mojo: Conjure Stories. Nineteen authors, from Neil Gaiman to Tananarive Due, explore the tricky, powerful, and dangerous nature of magic.
This Book is Full of Spiders cover
What about an unlikely monster? Brood X by Michael Philip Cash shows what happens when cicadas take over the world. Billions of cicadas wreak havoc on the electric grid, wi-fi, food, and water for Seth and his family in this original, fast-paced read.

Finally, how about something funny? This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong is a small town Armageddon in the form of giant, invisible spiders that only two hopeless, sarcastic heroes can see and fight.

Still not enough horror for you?

Click here for humorous horror novels.
Click here for horror short stories.
Click here for horror comics.
Click here for contemporary horror novels and here for literary horror.

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

 

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

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 cover

 

Barb F.’s Pick: NW

Barb F. Staff picks photoNW 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.

Ghosts and Gorey

Edward Goreys Haunted Looking Glass book coverGhosts 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.

LISTS: Art House Horror Movies

Make Out With Violence DVD coverThe 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.

They Called Him Shadow Catcher

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher book coverIt’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.

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.

Why Education Falls Short in America

The Smartest Kids in the World book coverAre 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.

Book Discussion Questions: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers 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 Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbough
Page Count: 322
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Engaging, emotional

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

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?

 

 

Other Resources

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website
Oprah’s book discussion questions
Daily Beast interview
Bookreporter interview
Washington Post review
AV Club review
Wikipedia entry on floriography

 

If you liked The Language of Flowers, try…

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Being Lara by Lola Jaye
Wrecker by Summer Wood

White Oleander book cover    Wrecker book cover