In Camille Griep’s Letters to Zell, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella write to Rapunzel, who has left them to start a new life. Female friendship and the search for a unique identity are explored through their distinctly imagined voices. Alternately funny and sad, each woman heroically takes on the complexities of life.
Check It Out
Whether a die-hard comics fan or someone who is just curious what the fuss is all about, you have access to entire worlds of digital comics through Hoopla – and those worlds just multiplied! This week Image Comics publications (The Walking Dead, Saga, Chew) were added to the lineup, and you can read them on your phone, tablet, or home computer with no waiting required. Praised by critics and prized by readers, these titles join the growing stable of series partnering with Hoopla, including the only-weeks-old addition of DC Comics such as Batman, Watchmen, and Wonder Woman series. Not a superhero fan? You’ll find lots of variety; Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Bill Willingham’s Fables, Doctor Who, and the much-in-demand Lumberjanes might be your personal gateway to the excitement of what happens when art meets story.
Hoopla is a library service which provides free access to books, music, videos, audiobooks, and comics. Check out as many as five titles each month with your MPPL library card, and titles will disappear at the end of the lending period.
What would happen if you chose a random library shelf and read only from that shelf?
Literary critic Phyllis Rose chose to do just that, detailing her extreme reading adventures in The Shelf: From LEQ to LES a part-memoir and part-guide of the landscape of literature. While Rose’s reading is confined to one shelf, her expertise as an academic, writer, and reader brings the discussion to the larger conversations of exploring women in fiction, the popularity of books, and the impact of allowing oneself to take reading risks.
Top two reasons you might want to read The Shelf:
-you like reading about an individual embarking on a new challenge
-you want to get your literary geek on with a book about books
Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Page Count: 455 pages
Tone: Descriptive, Fast-paced, Bleak
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
- 1. When we meet Strike, he is not at a personal high point. What are some of his struggles? He is further developed as the book proceeds – what did you find most interesting or surprising as we learned more about him?
2. How does knowing about Strike’s personal life affect your reading experience? Is he an appealing protagonist? If so, why do we root for him?
3. How would you assess Strike’s skills as an investigator? How is his talent evidenced in his interviews with suspects? How does his military experience influence his skills?
4. How does Strike’s disability affect his investigation? How does it affect how he relates to others? Why is his prosthesis pain / discomfort frequently mentioned?
5. Through Strike’s extensive investigation, a complex portrait of Lula emerges. How would you describe her lifestyle? Her personality? Her demons / challenges?
6. As a reader, do you feel like you knew everything that Strike and Robin were discovering? If so, was there a certain point at which you realized this was changing? (When were you aware the author was holding some information back from us?)
7. There is a motley grouping of supermodels, fashion queens, sleazy movie execs, trophy wives, and upper- and lower-class Brits. Which characters did you find most entertaining/ amusing? Do any of them seem vulgar to you, and if so, does this add or detract from their entertainment value as you read?
8. Do any interview scenes stand out in particular? How does the author use dialogue to express information about the characters?
9. How are female characters portrayed?
10. There is a lot of commentary by character about other characters. How much of our opinion of some of these characters is shaped by how others view them? How do the poor women perceive the rich ones? And vice versa?
11. Describe how the relationship between Strike and Robin is portrayed. Does their initial awkwardness around e/o change? How does he learn to trust her? How does their working relationship evolve? How do they navigate a working relationship while respecting e/o’s privacy / personal lives?
12. The book paints a certain picture of Strike and Charlotte’s turbulent multi-year relationship and her unappealing traits (high drama, cruel, lying, revenge-seeking). Why did he keep going back to her? Do you see any parallels between Lula and Charlotte?
13. The book’s prologue opens with a quote that translated from Latin reads, “Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.” How does The Cuckoo’s Calling express this?
14. What do you think the author thinks of our culture’s contemporary obsession with celebrities?
15. What are Strike’s thoughts on fame? How does he handle it when people mention his father?
16. There is an inescapable connection between Princess Diana and aggressive paparazzi, which also haunts Lula Landry. Beyond this, are there additional parallels you could draw between Lula and Diana?
17. How does the author incorporate social criticism into the narrative and the characters?
18. What are we led to believe about the morals of the upper-class, the lower-class, and other segments of society?
19. The book ends with Strike pondering, “I am become a name” How did you respond to the characters’ names in The Cuckoo’s Calling?
20. What do you think of the title? What do you think “calling” means? Why isn’t Lula’s character referred to as Cuckoo very often in the book?
21. Much of the book is devoted to interviews and conversation; as a result, some readers have critiqued lack of action. How did you respond to the dialogue-intensive construction of the book?
22. Several reviews used the word “fun” to describe this book. Do you agree?
23. Mystery novels are a hugely popular genre — Why do murder mysteries have such a high potential for entertainment value?
The author possibly winks at us on this topic: Strike says. “Some might have questioned the taste of finding amusement in the midst of a murder inquiry, but he had found humor in darker places” (p 362).
24. There are some familiar P.I. tropes (suicide being investigated as murder, P.I. is down on his luck, has a crappy office, little work coming in, eager assistant / sidekick) here. Do they feel like clichés, or merely recognizable features of a classic mystery? Does it seem like a typical mystery to you? Anything that makes it stand out among others?
25. Do you think Strike is unique among other fictional P.I.s?
26. The U.S. paperback cover shows the back of a model while she looks out at a sea of cameras. (vs. the U.K. version which is more colorful and shows a man walking under a light post in front of a large building). What do you think of the two different covers?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
Lit Lovers’ Reading Group Guide
National Network to End Domestic Violence Discussion Questions
National Geographic article on discover J.k. Rowling’s authorship
Audio interview with J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith
Everything I Never Told You is an incredibly written debut novel by Celeste Ng. On the surface, the story, which is set in the 1970’s, revolves around the mysterious death of Lydia Lee, a 16 year old honor student and favored daughter with a bright future. But the novel is so much more than a mere mystery. It is layered with such premises as racial stereotyping, homosexuality, family issues, and unfulfilled expectations. A must read!
Cats don’t live nine lives. They survive eight deaths. If that doesn’t sound at least a little bit ominous, then be warned that you may not be paying close enough attention. Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss is a wickedly funny little gem of mock-horror that is nothing like the traditional cozy cat mystery.
Grieving from the sudden loss of his wife, Alec is reluctantly drawn into a bizarre manuscript which includes interview transcripts between the author and a talking cat named Roger. The unfolding tale of feline evildoings is at first difficult to take seriously, but local events seem to support the insinuations of dark forces. Told via letters, transcripts, and e-mails, this story of sinister cats, obsessed librarians, and clever wordplay is a fast, fun read.
Author Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) is back, delving into the life of another dynamic woman in history in Circling the Sun. As the first licensed woman horse trainer and breeder in Africa, as well as a record-setting aviatrix, Beryl Markam is an adventurous strong-willed character defying traditional conventions in 1920s Kenya. McLain’s fictional portrayal of this fearless woman is one of summer 2015’s highly anticipated books.
While you wait, try one of the following books featuring adventurous women set in 1920s British Kenya:
Hugh Grant plays Keith Michaels, a one-hit wonder Oscar-winning screenwriter obsessed with trying to reinvigorate his failing career. Sent by his agent to teach at a community college, Keith’s approach to teaching is despicable and distasteful, yet there might still be hope for him as a teacher. As he grapples with rock bottom, his sarcasm along with a cast of eccentric characters bring humor to the screenwriter’s journey. A romantic comedy with a lot of heart, The Rewrite is an enjoyable romp about second chances and reframing your perspective on life.
The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles the cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mid-70’s attempt to mount an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic SF novel Dune. Jodorowsky is a magnetic raconteur, detailing plans (A score by Pink Floyd! Designs by Moebius! Casting Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger in roles!) that suggest a fascinating divergence from the eventual 1984 David Lynch film.