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Read-Watch-Listen: Three Variations on Ballroom Dance

Art often inspires art, and ballroom dance is no exception. Beneath the fantasy of fluid grace and fierce passion lie grand stories to capture our imagination. Here are three ways to be swept off your feet

Ballroom book cover
Strictly Ballroom DVD cover
Ballroom Dancing CD cover

Read:  Ballroom by Alice Simpson

A debut novel as beautifully choreographed as the dances themselves, Alice Simpson’s Ballroom entwines the lives of six characters who desire to escape their problems for a few hours each week in a struggling dance hall. Intricate yet somehow seeming effortless, these interconnected stories of yearning and disappointment form a moving examination of authentic relationships.

Watch:  Strictly Ballroom

Australian director Baz Luhrman drew from his own experiences of the lush, exacting, and sometimes absurd world of competitive dance for his first film. Strictly Ballroom is a pas de deux between a maverick dancer who risks a promising career in order to break with tradition and the awkward beginner who urges him to be true to himself.

Listen:  Ballroom Dancing: In Strict Tempo

Perhaps the story left to be told is your own? If reading and watching spark dreams of putting on your own dancing shoes, check out Ballroom Dancing: In Strict Tempo, which adds entertainment value with arrangements of retro hits. Tango to “Nothing Gonna Stop Us,” jive to “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and cha cha to “Dancing in the Street.” The floor is yours!

New Books: Witty Dramas, Gripping Historical Mysteries, and More!

Picture of new releases
Almost everyday new books arrive at the Library to be processed and then placed on the shelf or in your hands. Take a look at some of the books that have arrived most recently at the Library. Want help getting matched with a book to fit your reading mood? Ask online or at the Fiction/AV/Teen services desk on the second floor.

New in Books:

The Investigation
by J.M. Lee
Cover of The Investigation
A prison guard is found brutally murdered in Fukuoka Prison.

Villa America
by Liza Klaussman
Cover of Villa America
Parties, secrets, and 1920s French Riviera star in this historical drama.

The Edge of Dreams
by Rhys Bowen
Cover of The Edge of Dreams
Set in 1905 New York, PI Molly Murphy’s life might be on the line.

No. 4 Imperial Lane
by Jonathan WeismanCover of No. 4 Imperial Lane
A story of coming-of-age in a post-punk world.

Two Across
by Jeff Bartsch
Cover of Two Across
A quirky love story between two spelling bee winners.

The Invaders
by Karolina WaclawiakCover of The Invaders
Witty drama surrounding the social lives at a country club.

Coming of Age at the End of Days
by Alice LaPlante
Cover of Coming of Age at the End of Days
A teen becomes vulnerable to a cult and its prophecies about the end of the world.

If I Could Turn Back Time
by Beth Harbison
Cover of If I Could Turn Back Time
On her 38th birthday, Ramie finds herself back in time on the eve of her 18th birthday.

by Belinda Bauer
Cover of Rubbernecker
Something strange is going on in the cadaver lab where medical student Patrick works.

Killing Pretty
by Richard Kadrey
Cover of Killing Pretty
Sandman Slim investigates Death’s death in this fast urban fantasy

The Forgotten
by Heather Graham
Cover of The Forgotten
A man presumed dead appears to be his wife’s murderer.

The Color of Light
by Emilie Richards
Cover of The Color of Light
Reverend Wagner’s judgment is questioned when she steps in to help a homeless family

New in Audio:

by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Cover of Hausfrau
A 30-year-old woman lives in comfort, yet is falling apart inside.

The Other Daughter
by Lauren Willig
Cover of The Other Daughter
A 1920s governess learns she is an earl’s illegitimate daughter.

Lost & Found
by Brooke Davis
Cover of Lost and Found
An abandoned 7-year-old and a widow embark on a road trip.

Fiction: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Cover of Dept. of SpeculationAn intimate look of the journey of a relationship from the first meeting to the toils of marriage, Dept. of Speculation is the powerful out-pouring of a woman’s soul. No names are used in this poetic slice of life, the characters only called by the role they play in the relationship: “the husband,” “the daughter,” and “the wife,” who narrates. Although it’s a shorter novel at only 177 pages, bursts of thoughts are intricately thrown together to pack an emotional gut-punch that lingers.

Three signs you should try Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation:

-You want to vicariously live through the highest highs and lowest lows of a relationship.

-You like your fiction to be highly quotable.

-You are looking for a calm, serious, and observant narrator with a heart on fire.


Book Discussion Questions: Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

Cover of Suite FrancaiseTitle: Suite Francaise
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Page Count: 395 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, War Stories
Tone: Bleak, Moving, Dramatic

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.

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


1. Did you find it difficult to distinguish characters during the flight from Paris? Which ones made an impression? What scenes stood out?

2. A few characters are formed to represent the multitudes. Is this effective? How is human nature represented?

3. In what ways are different classes depicted? Do the rich, poor, and middle classes help or hinder one another?

4. Charles Langelet thought the common people were vile, vulgar creatures. When someone didn’t loan him a can of petrol, he said, “well that’s the human race for you egotistical and mean.” Then  he stole gas from a young couple and got of bit of a thrill from it. How do you think he can reconcile his words and actions?

5. Who was the least redeeming character and why?

6. The Michauds are said to epitomize people who “always pay the price and [are] the only ones who are truly noble.”   How do they represent those members of society who maintain their humanity throughout the war?   What is the significance of these two, who sincerely cherish life and not its fortunes, being the ones who are left in the dust as others run past?

7. Why did Arlette Corail help Hubert and what was the point of the seduction?

8. Madame Pericand escaped and forgot her father in law? Any thoughts

9. Storm in June and Dolce were written in different styles. Why those titles? Which did you prefer?   Why?

10. What are the differences in how the rich and the poor react as the Germans approach the village?

11. How would you describe Madame Angellier? Is she truly awful, or just overcome with sadness? Were you surprised by her reaction to hiding Benoit?

12. Should Madeleine have married Benoit? Why did she?

13. What is the strategic advantage of having German officers stay in resident homes rather than in barracks? How did attitudes toward the Germans change as they stayed in the village?

14. What do you think of this statement: “All the characters are collaborators in one form or another. They all have compromised to make their lives more bearable” (pg 49)?

15. Did Lucille make the right decision in regards to Bruno, the German soldier? Should she have allowed their relationship to go deeper? Was she wrong to use him to help Benoit?

16. Kurt Bonnet has been described as “the universal sacrificial soldier.” How might this be true? Is this a fair characterization?

It takes a long time for historians and writers to come objectively to terms with a catastrophic historical event, yet Némirovsky presents just that – an on-the-spot description of how the French behaved in the years between 1940 and 1942. She knew she had no time. She wrote her story just as it happened; she wrote as she experienced it, and she interpreted and made judgments even as she observed them.

17. Has Némirovsky presented a fair picture?

18. Has she written a journalistic account of the time or a story of fiction?

19. How have her own personal experiences biased her writing?

20. Do you think Némirovsky would have recalled and written about the occupation differently if she had written years after the war ended?

21. Is this book effective as a fictional account of France under German occupation? What can be said about the power of fiction to relate to the times?

22. On Corte’s desk is engraved, “to lift such a heavy weight, Sisyphus, you will need all your courage,” the same quotation that Némirovsky had claimed as her own motto. What is the significance?

23. Since the war, the French have lived with the myth of a valiant French Resistance movement in the face of a devastating German attack and occupation. This myth exploded in the late twentieth century and was shown to be false. However, the Resistance movement grew better organized after 1941, and there were many positive actions performed by the French. Némirovsky has been criticized for being too hard on the French and too easy on the Germans. What is your reaction to this comment?

24. Though unfinished as the author intended, does this book stand on its own? Has Némirovsky written a tragically classic story, or is she merely a tragic figure in her own story? How did knowing her fate change how you read the book?

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

Other Resources:

Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
Mel Menzie’s book discussion summary
The story behind Irene Némirovsky
Kershwa discusses her book on Némirovsky and inter-war France (video)


zookeeper's wifeCover of The NightingaleCover of Resistance







The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Résistance by Agnés Humber

Staff Pick: The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer

Picture of DonnaWhen everything around you seems overwhelming, sometimes a change of scenery can help and may even bring some surprises. This happy endings story takes place on Nantucket Island off Cape Cod. The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer is a good summer book.

Fiction: Impossible — Books that Read Like Action Movies

Summer blockbuster season may be slowing down, but you can sustain the adrenaline rush year-round with books so thrilling that the pages almost turn themselves!

Once a Spy book coverOnce A Spy by Keith Thomson

Discovering that his apartment has been blown up by would-be killers, gambler Charlie Clark figures out that his Alzheimer’s patient father was once a spy for the CIA and was part of an operation that sold faulty nuclear technology to terrorists.

Adrenaline book coverAdrenaline by Jeff Abbott

When his pregnant wife and child are kidnapped and he discovers that he has been set up as a traitor, brilliant CIA agent Sam Capra begins a desperate hunt for the unknown enemy who he believes has targeted the wrong man.

Ice Station book coverIce Station by Matthew Reilly

The discovery of a metallic object buried in a 100-million-year-old layer of ice–a discovery of immeasurable value–brings Lieutenant Shane Schofield and a team of Marines to Antarctica, where they will risk their lives to secure this discovery for the United States.

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night book coverOne Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre

The occasion: high school reunion. The place: an oil rig converted into a tourist resort. The outcome: carnage.

Die Easy book coverDie Easy by Zoë Sharp

Former Special Forces soldier and current bodyguard Charlie Fox becomes involved in a robbery that turns into a hostage situation and realizes her boyfriend, who is suffering post-injury memory loss, may hold the key to the crime’s motive.

Swimmer book coverThe Swimmer by Joakim Zander

A former spy whose career forced him to give up his infant daughter must come to her rescue years later when she is targeted by powerful international adversaries who would kill her for discovering volatile intelligence.

Awards: Man Booker Longlist (or How Many Books Can You Read Before October?)

“All of [these books] do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.”
-Judge Michael Wood

The Man Booker Prize is an annual award honoring what is considered to be the finest literary writing. While only books published in the UK the year of the award are eligible, for the second year in a row writers from other countries are considered as long as the novel was originally written in English. The Longlist, also known as the Booker’s Dozen, was announced July 29, 2015. The Shortlist will be announced Tuesday, September 15, 2015 with the winner being announced on Tuesday, October 13, 2015.

Looking for a fun challenge? Try to see how many you can read before the prize is announced! Check out the copies below at MPPL:

Cover of The Moor's AccountThe Moor’s Account
by Laila Lalami

Cover of A Brief History of Seven KillingsA Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James

Cover of LilaLila
by Marilynne Robinson









Cover of A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread
by Anne Tyler

Cover of The FishermenThe Fishermen
by Chigozie Obioma

Cover of Satin IslandSatin Island
by Tom McCarthy









Cover of The Green RoadThe Green Road
by Anne Enright

Cover of Did You Ever Have a FamilyDid You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

Cover of A Little LifeA Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara

Staff Pick: Here by Richard McGuire

Cover of HereJohn of Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Here by Richard McGuire

Richard McGuire’s inventive graphic novel Here is set in a single location for its entire duration: the corner of a room in a house.  However, each double-page image depicts this fixed space at a different moment throughout time, ranging the complete span of human history and beyond.   Grand changes play out over the years, juxtaposed against mundane still moments in the lives the home’s various inhabitants.  Events echo throughout time, such as when a window into the décor of 2014 is used to resonate with a scene from 1775.   Styles change, children grow older, and lives unfold in unexpectedly affecting fragments.  Here demonstrates that both the beautiful and ordinary qualities of life alike can remain strangely similar in any era.

For more formally complex graphic novels, try…

Cover of Ice HavenA series of stylistically diverse chapters mimicking comic strips collectively offer a multifaceted portrayal of a small Midwestern town in Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes.

Cover of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True StoriesMcGuire’s original 1989 short story version of “Here” is featured in An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons & True Stories Volume 1 edited by Ivan Brunetti.









Cover of Building Stories Building Stories by Chris Ware follows the dissatisfactions of a young woman and her neighbors across fourteen distinct printed comics.

Cover of BodyworldDash Shaw’s Bodyworld tells its futuristic tale of drug-induced telepathy as a vertical scroll of expressionistic imagery, illustrating a full range of sensory experiences.

Cover of Asterios Polyp Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli concerns a story of architecture and design, mirrored in its own elegantly crafted visual construction.

Audiobook: Mandela: An Audio History

Mandela: An Audio History CD coverLess than one minute into the 2015 winner of Audiobook of the Year, we hear an actual recording of the April 20, 1964 courtroom declaration of Nelson Mandela, “I am prepared to die.” It is the indelible past come alive, and it is the cornerstone of Mandela: An Audio History. Rare archival recordings and first-person interviews are compiled with newsreel clips and song excerpts to immerse listeners not only in the facts but also in the experience of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. In awarding the production top honors, the Audio Publishers Association judges described it as “one of the most powerful, well produced, and affecting programs we’ve ever heard.” Don’t miss the opportunity to hear extraordinary events in the very voices of those who lived them.

Staff Pick: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Picture of NancyThrough a variety of voices, Phil Klay’s Redeployment explores with unflinching detail what it means to serve in the Iraq War. There are intense combat stories as well as vivid accounts of readjusting to civilian life back home. This National Book Award winner is intense and yet several of the tales artfully convey distance and numbness.