“Once upon a time…” Are there four more thrilling words? No matter our age, we love a story! If it’s been too long since you’ve visited a faraway land, set sail for Happily Ever After, a collection of retold fairy tales by masters of fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction. Gregory Maguire riffs on Snow White with “The Seven Stage a Comeback,” Cinderella takes a disturbing turn in Peter Straub’s “Ashputtle,” and “The Troll Bridge” has never been as fun as when Neil Gaiman is telling it. Edited by John Kilma and with an introduction by Fables creator Bill Willingham, Happily Ever After is an ideal choice for enchantment during this year’s Discover the Magic summer reading program.
Month: June 2014
Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.
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.
New: Fiction Books
– Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
– Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa
– The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby
– The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert
– Where the Earth Meets the Water by Pia Padukone
– I Pity the Poor Immigrant by Zachary Lazar
– All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon
– The Bend of the World by Jacob Bacharach
New: Nonfiction Books
– Cubed by Nikil Saval
– Life is a Wheel by Bruce Webber
– A Sliver of Light by Shane Bauer
– The Burning Shore by Ed Offley
– The Hiltons by Randy J. Taraborrelli
– Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery
– Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty
– The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter
Comic book artist Derf Backderf keeps eerily close to home in his exploration of the adolescence of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, his former high school classmate. This graphic novel is stark in its imagery, full of dread and foreboding. As the young Dahmer spirals further and further into depravity, the adults in his life, parents and educators alike, seem not to notice, too absorbed in their own troubles to notice the wolf at the door. While My Friend Dahmer is certainly a frightening read, it’s never gory, and it manages to show, without being sensationalistic, the making of a monster.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Author: David McCullough
Page Count: 386
Genre: Narrative nonfiction, History
Tone: Upbeat, Nostalgic
1. Could King George III have done anything differently in 1776 to avoid war, or was it inevitable at that point?
2. Did he underestimate the Americans? How so?
3. What did you learn about George Washington from this book that surprised you? How much of what we know about Washington is a myth?
4. How important was Washington’s role in American independence?
5. How did Washington try to overcome his failings? Was he successful?
6. Why did—and perhaps still do—people respond so positively to him?
7. How has the reputation of Commander-in-Chief affected wars in our country since Washington’s time?
8. Was Congress right in not having Washington attack Boston? Why do you think Washington wanted to attack, especially when nobody else thought it was a good idea?
9. Washington was very concerned about his appearance. McCullogh writes: “And as with everything connected to that role—his uniform, the house, his horses and equipage, the military dress and the bearing of his staff—appearances were of great importance: a leader must look and act the part” (p. 42). How much of Washington’s ideas about appearance and presentation do you suppose was influenced by his living under a monarchy?
10. What do you think about Washington later deciding to wear civilian (rather than military) clothes when acting as president? Does this reveal anything about his character, his beliefs, etc.? And how much do you think that decision influenced the American people’s view of the Office of the President?
11. Washington was originally referred to as “His Excellency.” Do you think Americans today want their president to have an air of grandeur, or do they desire a more approachable “commoner” president? What are the pros and cons of both?
12. What were some of the biggest differences between the warring armies, and how did they affect the battles?
13. What about the American army surprised you? Were there any ways in which the inexperience of the American troops and their leaders were helpful to the cause?
14. In what ways did the technology of the time cause problems for the patriots that could have been avoided with today’s technology?
15. What formalities of war existed during Revolutionary times, and how does this differ from how wars are waged today?
16. What wins a war? Number of troops? Talent? Leadership?
17. Is it necessary for the enlisted to truly believe in the cause in order to win the war?
18. Are there any parallels to be drawn between the American Revolution and our current military conflicts?
19. Is it important for Americans to know the history of the Revolution? Why or why not?
20. How do you think modern English citizens would feel about this book and its portrayal of their history?
21. McCullough wrote this history as narrative nonfiction. Was he successful? Were you more interested or engaged reading this than you would have been with a more academic take on the subject?
22. The author chose to focus on a single year: 1776. Was this adequate to tell a compelling and clear story? Do you feel like there are things you still want to know, background information you wish you’d had?
23. After reading this, do you find it miraculous America gained its independence?
24. Do you think you would have joined the American cause or stayed loyal to England?
Radio interview: Author discusses researching and writing 1776
The Declaration of Independence at the Library of Congress
Images from the American Revolution
George Washington biography
A readable, fascinating history of the early United States, Empire of Liberty describes political and social philosophies of the time and their effect on American society and events. Without directly saying so, the book makes it evident that the roots of current American thought can be traced back to that time, with often striking parallels.
Michael Cera plays one of those insufferable hangers-on, the type of guy who’s always the last to leave the party (long after the hosts have expressed their desire for sleep) in Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, a surprisingly poignant indie road-trip flick. On a single-minded quest to find, prepare, and consume the titular “magic cactus,” he hooks up with three sweet-natured Chilean brothers. Also on board is a free-spirited American girl named Crystal Fairy (a magnetic Gaby Hoffmann), who frustrates him with a goodness that he sees as an obstacle to his desired hallucinogenic journey. It’s an offbeat ride, for sure, but the dynamic that develops between these disparate characters is fascinating and leads to a heartbreaking revelation.
Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres. 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.
New: Mystery Books
– Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O’Sullivan
– Hop Alley by Scott Phillips
– The Ways of Evil Men by Leighton Gage
– The Body in Bodega Bay by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
– Catnapped! by Elaine Viets
– The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
– Evil in the 1st House by Mitchell Scott Lewis
– Red Man Down by Elizabeth Gunn
New: Thrillers and Suspense
– Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
– Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois
– Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
– Jack of Spies by David Downing
– The Preservationist by Justin Kramon
– Command Authority by Tom Clancy
– Deadliest of Sins by Sallie Bissell
– The Corsican Caper by Peter Mayle
This short nonfiction novel tells the story of the first women to compete in the modern Olympic Games. Each chapter is delivered in the voice of one member of the Canadian track and field team. These 1920s women were indeed peerless, bravely facing naysayers who questioned their femininity and denounced their audacity, deriding them for assuming roles thought to be meant only for men. The Peerless Four is an inspirational underdog sports story that shows female athletes are every bit as dedicated and dogged in pursuit of Olympic glory as their male counterparts.
I was a member of the audience for the premier of Big Eden at the world famous Castro Theatre in June 2000 and happily joined in the thunderous 10 minute standing ovation. Big Eden is a winsome gay romantic comedy which turns stereotypes upside down with humor and a heart-warming romance.
Louise Penny’s mysteries are intricate and clever, unfolding slowly for the patient listener, and brimming with characters drawn thoughtfully and humanely. Still Life is no exception to her fine form. It explores the suspicious death (by bow and arrow!) of a seemingly well-loved elderly woman on the eve of her debut at a juried art show. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is on the case (this is the first entry in Penny’s series featuring Gamache), delving into the lives of the residents of a small Quebec village—friends, family, and maybe enemies of the deceased. There are lots of twists and turns, with questions leading to more questions, and the absolutely delightful Ralph Cosham’s smooth, English-accented narration will keep you rapt.