Month: February 2016

Staff Pick: Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

Picture of NancyIf you are in the mood to read something unique, I recommend Beatlebone by Kevin Barry. In this inventive novel, a late-1970s John Lennon is creatively blocked and sets off to find his private island off the coast of Ireland. I loved the unexpected detours, poetic language, and dreamlike setting. Beatles-fandom is helpful but certainly not required to enjoy this surreal story.

Asked at the Desk: What Should I Read Next?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

What Should I Read Next?

This is one of our favorite questions, and today we wanted to share one of our favorite databases to assist in answering this question: NoveList!

NoveList is a great search engine website to find books that you are in the mood to read as well as readalikes for your favorite authors or books.  One of our favorite recent additions to the site is the appeal mixer. So, if you want a romantic book with broody characters or an upbeat book with racy humour, while you can always ask us to help you find options, you can explore NoveList, too!

As a Mount Prospect Library cardholder, you can use this professional website whenever, wherever, and at no cost. You can access NoveList HERE, in the web resources. Once you have entered your library card information and have entered NoveList, here’s how to get to the appeal mixer…

On the top of the page, hover your mouse over the words Browse By. Choose the category Appeal.

appeal

You will then land on the appeal mixer page where you can create different combinations of types of character, illustration, pace, storyline, tone, and writing style:picture of Novelist Appeal mixerThe more general you are in what you choose for your appeal mix, the more results you will receive. While we do not own every book that will come up on your search, we can always look into different ways we can get that title into your hands!

If you’re having trouble getting NoveList to work or would like us to come up with book suggestions for you please ask either in person, by calling the Library, or online. Have fun exploring!

 

Book Discussion Questions: Crocodile in the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Crocodile on the Sandbank coverTitle:  Crocodile on the Sandbank
Author:  Elizabeth Peters
Page Count: 262 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical
Tone:  Witty, descriptive

Summary:

 On the death of her father, 32-year old Victorian heiress Amelia Peabody travels Egypt to indulge her interest in Egyptology. An historical mystery with amusing repartee between a strong-willed Amelia and an equally pigheaded archaeologist named Radcliffe in an exotic setting and time.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. With her inheritance, Amelia could live a pampered (albeit limited) life as an English lady. Why does she choose to travel Europe and Egypt?

2. How does Amelia differ from more typical Victorian women? If she stayed in England can you picture her being a suffragette in the British women’s movement?

3. What words would you use to describe Amelia? (Sarah Booth Conroy wrote in the Washington Post.: “All (E. Peters’ heroines) are opinionated, independent, strong, brusque, suspicious, quick to take offense, slow to ask for help, and funny”)

4. How do Amelia’s (British culture-prescribed) clothes hinder her activities in her Egyptian travels? Do they ever help? (pg. 116 mentions Rational Dress League)

5. What does Amelia think about romantic love? Marriage? Does this change by the end of the book?

6. Do you like Amelia as a character? How about as a narrator? As a reader, does it matter to you if you like main character?

7. Amelia is quite capable, confident, and rational. When do we see Amelia’s more emotional / vulnerable side? Does she ever doubt herself?

8. Amelia knows herself well. Do you believe she describe herself objectively (accurately)? How do other characters see her?

9. What do we know of Amelia’s looks? How does she perceive her outward appearance? Why would the author chose to not give us much information on this?

10. Why is Evelyn so distraught when Amelia first meets her? Do you find it surprising that Evelyn had contemplated suicide? Do you think she would have gone through with it?

11.What do you think of the friendship between Evelyn and Amelia? Is there anything else you would want to know about how they get along? Does the book give you enough information to comment on this?

12. What does Evelyn see in Amelia? And why is Amelia drawn to Evelyn? Do you think they are a likely pair to be friends?

13. Evelyn is more passive, emotional, indecisive, and gentle. Does Amelia ever get frustrated with Evelyn and her (more conventional) femininity?

14. Does Evelyn ever challenge Amelia? Does Evelyn change by the end of the book?

15. What would the story be like without Evelyn?   (What is the importance of a “sidekick” in a mystery?)

16. How would you describe Emerson?

17. Despite the tension and competition between them, Amelia and Emerson have more in common than they perhaps realize (scholarly interests, judgments of others, high standards, persnickety, etc). Do you think you get an accurate picture of Emerson from Amelia’s narrative?

18. In the beginning of chapter 2, Amelia says she “will spare the Gentle Reader descriptions of the journey and of the picturesque dirt of Alexandria” – do you think the author described the Egyptian setting in detail nonetheless? Was it the right amount? Would you want more or less?

19. What does reading this book tell you about the field of Egyptology in the late 1800s? What do you think about British interests in Egypt? Do you think it is okay for another country to get involved in discovery and restoration of artifacts?

20. How is Emerson’s approach archaeology depicted? What are his opinions of others in the field?

21. Did reading this book help you learn anything about Egyptology? Did the book entice you at all to travel to Egypt?

22. How did you respond to the unflattering descriptions of the characters who are not English / Caucasian? Is this E.P. in 1975 or E.P. characterizing Amelia’s views in 1880s? If this was an intentional character trait for Amelia, why?

23. What are we led to believe about these superstitious ways of Egyptian people?

24. Do you have any observations about Amelia’s (& others’) interactions with servants and workers?

25. How do her comments help us learn about Egyptian life in the late 1800s? Is there more about their culture you feel curious about? Are there elements of Egyptian culture that Amelia is not able to witness? (Are there things she isn’t aware of as a British traveler?)

26. How did Amelia’s narrative voice affect your reading experience? Would you say this is an essential aspect? Can you picture what it would be like if this book was written in the 3rd person?

27. Amelia and Emerson’s marriage proposal is not typical. Do you recall who proposes to whom? What does each say he/she will get out of the marriage?

28. Did you like Crocodile on the Sandbank overall? What about it did you most enjoy? If you didn’t care for it, what didn’t work for you?

29. Would this make a good movie? Who would you cast in a movie adapted from this book?

30. Is the experience of reading Crocodile on the Sandbank similar to other mysteries you have read? (No dead body… Is it unusual for mystery to not be about a murder?)

31. If you don’t typically read mysteries, did this fulfill your expectations of a mystery? Would you recommend this book to someone who likes mysteries? Would you recommend this to someone who likes historical fiction? Romance?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Fan site on the Amelia Peabody series
Book Club Kit curated by Pinal County
Author website
Online book discussion
Washington post interview with author
Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium

READALIKES:

The Map of Love book cover Good Night Mr. Holmes book cover Shadows on the Nile book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
Good Night, Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas
Shadows on the Nile by Kate Furnivall

Staff Pick: Arrow, The Complete First Season

Picture of BarbBillionaire playboy Oliver Queen returns home after being marooned on an island for five years. While away he learns that his father was not the man he thought he was, and he is faced with challenges that threaten his life. Forced to learn new skills just to survive, Oliver becomes a changed man on the island. He returns to his home to fix his father’s mistakes by pretending to be a cavalier playboy by day, but donning a green hood at night to become the Arrow.

Listen Up! Award-Winning Audiobooks

Listen List logoJust in time for your upcoming road trip, workout, daily commute, household chore, or well-earned rest, the winners of the 2016 Listen List are here to read you a story. Selected for outstanding narration, each title promises a thrilling listening experience that can’t help but satisfy. Choose your adventure and press play!

 

Til the Well Runs Dry audiobook cover‘Til the Well Runs Dry
Lauren Francis-Sharma
True Story audiobook coverTrue Story
Michael Finkel

 

H is for Hawk audiobook cover H is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald
And Only to Deceive audiobook coverAnd Only to Deceive
Tasha Alexander
All Involved audiobook coverAll Involved
Ryan Gattis

 

All the Old Knives audiobook coverAll the Old Knives
Olen Steinhauer
Strangler Vine audiobook coverThe Strangler Vine
M.J. Carter

 

Dead Wake audiobook coverDead Wake
Erik Larson

The Knockoff audiobook coverThe Knockoff
Lucy Sykes, Jo Piazza

..

 

Music: Italian Music for Your Ferrante Fever

Ferrante Fever Header Image

Have you found yourself being overtaken by Ferrante Fever?

Give yourself a soundtrack as you read the popular book series set in Naples, Italy by Elena Ferrante. The books begin in 1950 following two best friends when they’re in elementary school and as they age.

The Best of Jimmy Roselli album cover The Best of Jimmy Roselli

Italian-American singer Jimmy Roselli began his career in the early 1960s. He was known to sing classic songs from Naples, described as “singing in perfect Neapolitan dialect.” This more relaxed album starts out with “Mala Femmena,” which is considered to be his signature song.

 

 

 

Serenade a Mario Lanza album coverSerenade: A Mario Lanza Songbook

With some songs sung in Italian and others in English, this compilation sung by Mario Lanza moves from upbeat and whimsical to more leisurely-paced romantic sweeping melodies. An orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra’s cousin, Ray Sinatra provides a sweeping foundation for most of the tracks.

 

 

 

guiseppe di stefano album cover

Giuseppe di Stefano Neapolitan Songs

Di Stefano takes his operatic tenor to Neapolitan songs in this collection of classics, all sung in Italian. Di Stefano began his singing career in the 1940s and would have been popular while the fictional characters Elena and Lila were growing up.

Books: Will You Be Our Galentine?

Galentine's Day displayBefore you are swept away by the romance of Valentine’s Day, take a cue from Leslie Knope of Parks & Recreation and honor the female friendships in your life.  That’s right!  February 13 is Galentine’s Day, a day for ladies to celebrate ladies.  Need a little inspiration?  Try one of these:

Wildwater Walking Club book coverThe Wildwater Walking Club
by Claire Cook

Noreen, Tess, and Rosie walk and talk their way through life’s ups and downs in their town of Wildwater. As they tally their steps and share their secrets, life begins to take them in some new and surprising directions.

Sushi for Beginners book coverSushi for Beginners
by Marian Keyes

Depicts the lives of three women in the fashion trade, exploring the trials and tribulations as well as the happiness and joy of true friends in the fast-paced worlds of love and career.

Annie Freemans Fabulous Traveling Funeral book coverAnnie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral
by Kris Radish

An unexpected bequest from a late friend takes five women on a wild and life-transforming road trip from the deserts of New Mexico to the shores of Lake Superior, as they celebrate the bonds of female friendship.

Circle of Friends book coverCircle of Friends
by Maeve Binchy

Two friends who grew up together in a small Irish village attend college in Dublin, where their lives become intertwined with the beautiful Nan Mahon and Jack Foley, the handsome son of a doctor.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe book coverFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
by Fannie Flagg

Mrs. Threadgoode’s tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.

Shoe Addicts Anonymous book cover

Shoe Addicts Anonymous
by Beth Harbison

Four different women  meet Tuesday nights to trade shoes and, in the process, form friendships that will help them each triumph over their problems.

 

This is only a sample of the gal pals on offer at the Library. Ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor and we will connect you with something to fit your mood!

Book Discussion Questions: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott

Liar Temptress Solider Spy book coverTitle:  Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Author:  Karen Abbott
Page Count: 513 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Collective Biographies
Tone:  Dramatic, Richly Detailed, Compelling

Summary:
One of the most fascinating yet little-known aspects of the Civil War is illuminated in the stories of four courageous women — a socialite, a farm girl, an abolitionist, and a widow — who risked everything to take on a life of espionage.  Their adventures comprise a fascinating quartet of determination and intrigue from both sides of the battle lines.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. How many in the group recall learning about Belle Boyd, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, or Sarah Emma Edmonds prior to this book? Given their individual stories, is that surprising? Why do you think this is?

2. Author Karen Abbott specifically did not want to write about a single individual, instead repeatedly calling on the word tapestry to describe the weaving of multiple stories. Why do you think she chose these four women specifically?

3. Which of the four primary characters most fascinated you or elicited the strongest connection for you? Why? How might you guess Abbott herself answered this question? [Click here to find out.]

4. What factors might influence how we respond to each character? Did the affiliation with North or South matter to you? Personality? Circumstances? Traditional bias toward how women should behave?

5. For each of the four women, what were the most memorable escapades? How effective was each in advancing her cause?

6. Did you feel you had good sense of what in their pasts led these women to these roles? Did any surprise you?

7. What made the women more effective as spies than their male counterparts?

8. How did the women turn societal assumptions or traditions regarding gender to their advantage?

9. How would you describe each character’s relationships with the men in their lives?

10. Which of the supporting characters made an impression? For instance, what did you think of the parts played by Jerome Robbins or Mary Bowser?

11. Is each word in the title intended to correspond to one of the women, or does it hold a different message?

12. How effective is the title in drawing a reader? In establishing a tone for the writer’s approach?

13. The author’s intention was that this history read like a novel. How successful was she? What qualities support or contradict that intent?

14. What is gained by intertwining the four stories in a chronological structure? Would you have preferred to focus on one character at a time in four sections?

15. Abbott begins with the assurance that everything is factual, drawn from primary sources. Some readers question whether this can be true, even if that were her intention. What do you think? Does the issue affect your experience of the book?

16. Most everyone studies the Civil War, but hardly any are taught about Civil War spies, much less women as spies. Why not? What is the value of history instruction beyond battles and traditional leaders? Would you argue for better inclusion of stories like these in general histories?

17. Would you argue that this book holds appeal for both male and female readers? Why or why not?  How do you feel about this?

18. Karen Abbott enjoys writing about unconventional women in history who break the rules. If you have read her other accounts (Sin in the Second City, American Rose), how would you say this work compares?

19. Abbott’s next work is a novel about a real-life female con artist in the Gilded Age. Would you follow her into historical fiction? How do you think she’ll do?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

official website of author Karen Abbott
BookTV videorecording of Karen Abbott at the 2015 Savannah Book Festival
a Los Angeles Times review wonders why not call this work historical fiction
New Republic explores the controversy of sexist criticism
National Women’s History Museum profile of Belle Boyd
Smithsonian special report on “Elizabeth Van Lew: An Unlikely Union Spy
a Civil War Trust biography of Sarah Emma Edmonds
official Rebel Rose website

READALIKES:

Stealing Secrets book coverSpymistress book coverCapital Dames book cover
    

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War  by H. Donald Winkler
The Spymistress: A Novel  by Jennifer Chiaverini
Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868  by Cokie Roberts

New Book Spotlight: Page-Turners Featuring Twins

If you want a thriller, try…

Beside Myself book cover

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

Already at six, Helen and Ellie have found their roles as a twin. Helen is the older, stronger and favored twin, while Ellie is slower as a result of a complication at birth and thus often ignored. The twins switch places as a funny prank, but once Ellie is in the coveted role of Helen, she refuses to switch back.

 

 

 

If you want a fantastical look at grief, try…

eleanor book cover

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

After the death of her identical twin, Eleanor is left picking up the pieces of her family’s grief. She begins slipping into other worlds which leads her to new discoveries about the tragedies that have affected her family over time.