Month: October 2016

Check It Out Blog

List: Optimistic Television

Too often the most praised programs in the exciting eras of Television’s Golden Age and Peak TV are gritty and cynical, while happy or hopeful shows can be dismissed as fluff. Not true. We’re here to tell you that excellence in television narratives doesn’t need to be a downer. Here are six critically acclaimed series that combine innovative storytelling with a rosy outlook.

 

Jane the Virgin DVD coverJane the Virgin

The gold standard. An intentionally ridiculous premise serves as comic springboard for real-life issues of family, religion, immigration, identity, and integrity. Earnest and charming without being naïve, Jane regularly brings both tears and laughter (sometimes simultaneously) and inspires real hope for the world.

 


Parks and Recreation DVD cover
Parks and Recreation

Mid-level bureaucracy may be an unlikely place to find idealism, but you won’t find anyone who embodies optimism better than Leslie Knope. She and her motley band of coworkers have genuine affection for each other and sincere belief in the work they do, no matter how absurd it may seem.

 

Pushing DaisiesPushing Daisies DVD cover

Narrated by the magical Jim Dale (voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks), this candy-colored procedural is as much comfort food for the soul as the mouth-watering pies on display would be for the belly. Unabashedly romantic in outlook and buoyant in spirit, star-crossed lovers and artful murders have never before brought such joy.

 


Black-ish

Deftly juggling broad comedy with sensitive topics, Black-ish shows that issues of race don’t need to be isolated as “very special episodes”. Parents and children alike are allowed to make mistakes, tough questions are faced head on, and family is ultimately celebrated, all without forgetting that it’s a show designed to entertain.

 

Gilmore GirlsGilmore Girls DVD cover

Life is hard, people we love make poor choices, and we can’t all live in Stars Hollow. All of these may be difficult to accept, but somehow time spent with Lorelai, Rory, and the quirky denizens of their hometown makes us believe that given enough coffee, pop culture fast-talking, and wacky festivals, happiness and home are within reach. Where they lead, we will follow.

The West WingWest Wing DVD cover

Politics and optimism may seem quite a stretch these days, but if any show can restore even a little hope in Washington, it’s this one. Here we can escape into a world where the President and his advisors actually succeed in channeling passion into action, illustrating our longing for government to overcome the odds.

 

 

 

Looking for more suggestions to watch, hear, or read? Ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor. We’d love to connect you with something to fit your mood!

Book Discussion Questions: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl cover imageTitle: The Good Girl
Author:  Mary Kubica
Page Count: 382 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Tone:  Compelling, Contemplative

Summary:
Inner-city art teacher Mia Dennett is taken hostage by her one-night stand, Colin Thatcher, who, instead of delivering her to his employers, hides her in a cabin in rural Minnesota to keep her safe from harm.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Without going into detail of the why’s, did this book turn out to be what you were expecting?

2. The story is basically told through 3 people’s viewpoints. Did this type of storytelling work for you?

3. We are introduced and get to know Mia through other characters perceptions ( Eve and Colin).  Did you feel like you got to know the character?

4. Let’s talk about Colin/ Owen. What did you think about him?

5. On the night of her abduction Mia leaves the bar with a stranger. How did this action affect your perceptions of her character?

6. What did you think about Eve not telling Detective Hoffman about Mia’s checkered past as he was beginning his investigation?

7. We all have our theories when reading these types of books, Initially, who did you think had Mia kidnapped and why?

8. What are your thoughts on the side characters (Jason/Grace/Delmar)?

9. Mia said to Colin that she (Mia) and her father are different people and that Grace was the one just like her father.  What would you say about that statement?

10. Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin. There were many times he could have just left her and didn’t.  Why did you think he decided to stay and as you were reading this, were you questioning his motivations?

11. Let’s talk about the lady with the flat tire. What did you think would happen?

12. Was there ever a point in the book where you hoped Colin and Mia wouldn’t be found?

13. What did you think of Colin’s relationship with his mother?

14. During the ongoing investigation Eve basically throws herself at Detective Hoffman. What was your reaction to that passage?

OTHER RESOURCES:

From the publisher: The Good Girl book discussion kit
Reading group guide
Chicago Tribune article on Kubica’s book deal
Book trailer (video)
Interview with Mary Kubica (video)
Q&A with Mary Kubica

READALIKES:

eyes-on-you book coverEyes on You
by Kate White

cartwheel book coverCartwheel
by Jennifer DuBois

Gone Girl book coverGone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

Staff Pick: 100 Recipes- The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials

Picture of DonnaThe 2015 edition cookbook 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials was compiled by the American Test Kitchen and features numerous colored illustrations. It has complete, easy to follow recipes and hints for basic to complex techniques. It is full of ways to make my favorites and inspire me to try new meals.

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List: Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence 2017 Longlist

September brought the 2017 longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction. The Andrew Carnegie Medals are especially notable because winners are chosen by library professionals, similar to the Newbery award for children’s literature. This results in the ultimate to-read list for the year in adult fiction and non-fiction! Take a look at some of the books that stood out below:

perfume-river book coverPerfume River
by Robert Olen Butler
the-sport-of-kings book coverThe Sport of Kings
by C.E. Morgan
christodora book coverChristodora
by Zadie Smith

 

the-firebrand-and-the-first-lady book coverThe Firebrand and the First Lady
by Patricia Bell-Scott
behold-the-dreamers book coverBehold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue
the-angel-of-history book coverThe Angel of History
by Rabih Alameddine

 

city-of-thorns book coverCity of Thorns
by Ben Rawlence
mister monkey book coverMister Monkey
by Francine Prose
mad-enchantment book coverMad Enchantment
by Ross King

 

Make sure to take a look at the full list of books chosen. The six finalists (three for fiction and three for nonfiction) will be announced October 26, 2016!

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Audiobook: The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

Broken Ones book coverThe dead have risen, and they are shadowing us. Three years ago the earth’s poles inexplicably switched, plunging the planet into chaos. One effect was the appearance of personal ghosts, usually with a close connection to the haunted. Detective Oscar Mariani, however, can’t place the 16-year-old boy who is now his otherworldly companion. His unit specializes in those who are driven to murder by the presence of spirits, and he’ll need all his faculties intact to solve the latest gruesome killing.

Horror tales (or horror-blends) are especially heightened in audio, and Australian narrator Grant Cartwright shows how a strong performance can intensify the crawling of our skin. His skill in intonation, emotion, and pacing keeps us listening even though we’re tempted to hide under the covers. The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin is both fascinating and creepy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Staff Pick: Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

Picture of LarryBlasphemy includes some of Sherman Alexie’s classic short stories along with newer tales. The stories challenge the reader’s comfort zones with plots exploring race and ethnicity, culture, stereotypes, alcoholism, diabetes, and personal identity. The settings are in the Pacific Northwest with Native American protagonists. The expertly crafted stories are personal, revealing the characters for who they are and what influenced their lives, making them seem real and reflecting life as it truly is for many.

List: Funny Horror Books

funny horror books

Horror books don’t only have to be eerie, they can be funny too! Books shown below take familiar horror story premises and add a little laugh to the boo.

Apocalypse Cow book coverApocalypse Cow
by Michael Logan
It starts with one cow that won’t die… and spreads… and spreads… until the world has a problem they never imagined they would have to deal with: zombie animals.
Carpe Demon book coverCarpe Demon
by Julie Kenner
Between taking care of her kids and supporting her husband’s political career, Kate doesn’t have time to hunt demons too, but there’s only one woman for the job and that’s her!
Gil's All Fright Diner book coverGil’s All Fright Diner
by A. Lee Martinez
Duke, a werewolf, and Earl, a vampire, stop at diner and are enlisted to help the owner’s zombie problem, however, zombies aren’t the only problems the owner has.

 

John Dies at the End book coverJohn Dies at the End
by David Wong
A concoction called Soy Sauce opens a can of worms, but thanks to David’s and John’s video game knowledge they may have a chance of protecting their loved ones.
Paul is Undead
by Alan Goldsher
The Beatles are gearing up to take over the world like no other rock stars have ever done before!
bloodlite book coverBlood Lite III: Aftertaste
by various authors
All-star authors such as Jim Butcher and Kelley Armstrong unite to bring forth a collection of some hilarious good short horror stories.

 

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Book Discussion Questions: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Thirteenth Tale book coverTitle:  The Thirteenth Tale
Author:  Diane Setterfield
Page Count: 406 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction; Psychological Suspense
Tone:  Atmospheric, Dramatic

Summary:
When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In many ways, this is a book for book lovers, and there are multiple passages that speak to readers. For instance, early in the book (p. 32) Margaret contrasts her reading as a child to her reading as an adult.

a. Do you recall why Margaret says she prefers old novels? (see p. 29)

b. Her father advocates for contemporary writing, ones “where the message is that there is no end to human suffering, only endurance…endings that are muted, but which echo longer in the memory.” Do you side with Margaret or with her father? Is it that simple?

c. Given those characterizations, does The Thirteenth Tale resonate more as an old novel or as contemporary writing?

2. Let’s dig in by putting ourselves in Margaret’s place. We’re living our quiet bookshop lives, and we receive a letter without real context or satisfactory explanation. Why would we (as Margaret) even consider accepting the invitation?

3. In one interview about her career change from academia to author, Setterfield notes her realization that “whilst books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else.” How might we say this is reflected in the novel?

4. Would you call The Thirteenth Tale a ghost story? If so, who are the ghosts? Who is haunted?

5. What do biography and storytelling have in common? How are they different? Would you rather have the truth or a good story?

6. Were you surprised at Miss Winter’s true identity? What points Margaret (and the reader) to this conclusion?

7. Who was saved from the fire? How can we be certain?

8. Margaret realizes that “plunging deep into Miss Winter’s story was a way of turning my back on my own” (p. 282). Was this true? Did it work?

9. Angelfield (the house) becomes an external symbol of the family and its changing condition. Can you think of examples of when this seems to be true? Which other rooms or homes reflect their inhabitants?

10. Miss Winter tells Margaret that “it doesn’t do to get attached to secondary characters. It’s not their story. They come, they go, and when they go they’re gone for good. That’s all there is to it.” (p. 191-2). Does that prove to be true in her story? In the book?

11. How essential is what we learn from Hester’s diary?

12. What did you think of the “game” of the conveyor belt and Margaret’s later admission (to us) that she did love books more than people?

13. In what ways does The Thirteenth Tale fit the characteristics of a Gothic novel?

14. Several classic Gothic novels are named, some multiple times. Did this enhance the experience for you? Did it seem too “on point” or distract by the comparison, or did you find it original?

15. What other recurring symbols seem to be present in The Thirteenth Tale?

16. Did you like the structure: Beginnings, Middles, Endings, Beginnings? How is this choice significant?

17. In which character names did you find significance?

18. What patterns seem to be repeated throughout the story?

19. Aurelius wonders if it’s better to have no story than one that keeps changing, and Margaret’s mother thinks a weightless story is better than one too heavy. What do you think is better for these characters? In general?

20. How effective is the choice of title? What does it contribute to tone and to theme?

21. The idea of siblings, especially twins, is central to the story in many ways. How do the different relationships affect the characters and themes? Did this enhance your experience of the story?

22. Did you find the ending satisfying? Explain your answer.

23. The question of precisely when The Thirteenth Tale takes place has sparked much speculation. As you read, did you have a time period in mind? Would you have preferred this be specifically stated? What is gained in leaving the time undefined?

24. Is there anyone today who might be Vida Winter’s contemporary counterpart: someone who has written multiple bestsellers, whose books are among the most borrowed from libraries, yet who is reclusive, “as famous for her secrets as for her stories”?

25. The Thirteenth Tale was the inaugural selection of “Barnes & Noble Recommends” in which each season one book was chosen as riveting and of extraordinary quality worthy of stimulating discussion, one that they were sure you would recommend to others. Their introduction opened with a single word: unputdownable. Would that word characterize your experience with the book? Would you recommend it to others?

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 Diane Setterfield
The Guardian interview with Setterfield
audio: Setterfield talks about her inspiration and process
BookPage feature on the release of The Thirteenth Tale
The Independent review of The Thirteenth Tale
Lit Lovers book discussion guide
The Wall Street Journal explains “The Eerie Allure of the Gothic
video clip from the 2013 BBC movie adaptation

READALIKES:

Distant Hours book coverThe Distant Hours
by Kate Morton

Rebecca book coverRebecca
by Daphne Du Maurier

Seduction of Water book coverThe Seduction of Water
by Carol Goodman

Staff Pick: Faithful Place by Tana French

Picture of NancyAfter hearing readers rave about Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries, I picked up Faithful Place (third in the series) and now I have a new favorite author.  This title features Frank Mackey, an undercover cop who examines the complicated relationships of his own past as he works a cold case.  With its atmospheric Irish setting and flawed characters, this is an incredibly satisfying mystery.