Check It Out Category: Books

Book Discussion Questions: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun book coverTitle: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Page Count: 496 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Tone:  Atmospheric, Commanding

Summary:
Brings to life a fearless and captivating woman from recent history: Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa.

 

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:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Historical fiction based on real people has become a popular genre.  Why do you think this is?  How do you feel about novels based on real people?

2. Biographies have been written about Beryl Markham, and Markham herself wrote a memoir, West with the Night.  In your opinion, would having access to these works make it more or less challenging to create a fictionalized account of her life?

3. Were you familiar with Beryl Markham before you read Circling the Sun?  Did reading this book contribute to your understanding of her?

4. Are you curious about the parts of Markham’s life that McLain chose to not include?

5. How do you think the author meant to portray Beryl Markham?  Do you believe Beryl is portrayed in a positive light?

6. Do you believe first person narration helped you connect with Beryl as a character?

7. Does Beryl have a lot of agency in her own life?   How does she handle circumstances not within her control?  Did you disagree with any of her choices?

8. How did Beryl conduct her life within or against gender norms of the time?

9. Karen tells Beryl she admires her independence, to which Beryl replies, “I have fought for independence here, and freedom, too. More and more I find they’re not the same thing” (pg. 161).  How are the themes of independence and freedom explored in Circling the Sun?

10. Does the colonial setting complicate your opinion of the book?

11. Some readers have critiqued the novel’s emphasis on romantic pursuits at the expense of additional exploration of Markham’s accomplishments in horse training and aviation.  What are your thoughts on this?

12. Marveling over the new foal Pegasus, Beryl thinks, “Somehow this miraculous animal belonged to me: a bit of grace I hadn’t even known I was desperate for” (pg. 61). In her youth and early adulthood, how does Beryl connect with animals, and horses in particular?

13. In her memoir West with the Night, Beryl Markham wrote, “Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia.  It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations.  … It is all these things but one thing – it is never dull” (pg. 8).  How did the setting of Circling the Sun contribute to your understanding of Africa in the early 20th century?  How important was Kenya to Markham?

14. Toward the end of West with the Night, Markham wrote, “A life has to move or it stagnates.  Even this life, I think. … Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday” (pg. 238).  Do you think Circling the Sun captures Markham’s zeal for variety?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Discussions questions written by publisher
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
McLain on the story
behind Circling the Sun
Photo gallery provided by publisher
New York Times article on Beryl Markham
NPR book review on Circling the Sun
Video of Paula McLain discussing her work
Longitude Blog’s interview with Paula McLain

READALIKES:

The Ashford Affair book coverThe Ashford Affair
by Lauren Willig

Twain's End book coverTwain’s End
by Lynn Cullen

Boleto book coverBoleto
by Alyson Hagy

Staff Pick: The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

Picture of JoyceI’m not a minimalist, but I’m slowly working towards it. I don’t want stuff to dominate my life. Do you have clothes in your closet that are three sizes smaller than what you currently wear? Are you holding onto items from your parents that you will never use? Do you have ten sets of sheets but only own two beds? Then The Joy of Less is the book for you! Too much stuff weighs us down, takes up our time, and clutters our homes and minds.  Author Francine Jay encourages us to deal with clutter, get rid of excess, and live happily with less.

List: Beauties and Beasts in Love

A tale as old as time… but that doesn’t stop romantics through the years thrilling to the story of a heroine who sees past an animal-like exterior to recognize a noble heart beneath. Today is the release of Disney’s remake of its celebrated Beauty and the Beast, and we are marking the occasion with a collection of re-imaginings for adult readers.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast book coverWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast
by Eloisa James
The Earl of Marchant lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. Rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.  However, Miss Linnet is not just any woman.
Beauty book coverBeauty
by Susan Wilson
Traveling to New Hampshire to paint a portrait, Alix finds a man hideously deformed by a rare genetic disease, but as she spends hours working on the portrait, she discovers the magnificent man inside the recluse.
Lair of the Lion book coverLair of the Lion
by Christine Feehan
To rescue her imprisoned brother, Isabella is willing to brave the fabled lair of the lion. When the imposing figure commands her to become his bride, she agrees in the hope she can save his tortured soul.

 

Bride and the Beast book coverThe Bride and the Beast
by Teresa Medeiros
Sent into a ruined castle as a sacrificial victim for a dragon, Gwendolyn Wilder finds herself instead lured into the castle lord’s luxurious bed.
Simply Love book coverSimply Love
by Mary Balogh
While on a summer holiday in Wales, Anne meets Sydnam Butler, a taciturn hero of the Peninsula Wars. Gentle yet courageous, but also wounded, he is unlike any man she has ever encountered.
To Beguile a Beast book coverTo Beguile a Beast
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Socialite Helen takes a job as a housekeeper in a crumbling Scottish castle, where she refuses to let the beast-like Sir Alastair scare her away with his surliness and scars.

 

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast book coverBeauty and the Clockwork Beast
by Nancy Campbell Allen
When Lucy, a botanist famous for her vampire research, arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her sick cousin, she finds that mysteries abound. A restless ghost roams the hallways, and Lord Miles is clearly hiding a secret.
Fire Rose book coverThe Fire Rose
by Mercedes Lackey
Accepting a governess position after her father’s death, Rosalind is disturbed when her only contact with her new employer is through a speaking tube, but she finds joy in her assignment–to read wonderful literature to him.
Yours Until Dawn book coverYours Until Dawn
by Teresa Medeiros
Blinded in battle, war hero Gabriel lives as a recluse in his family’s mansion, until the arrival of nurse Samantha, who sets out to heal not only the arrogant earl’s body, but also his heart and mind.

 

Hearts Blood book coverHeart’s Blood
by Judith Marillier
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family. When the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household.
Chocolate Rose book coverThe Chocolate Rose
by Laura Florand
Hot-tempered Gabriel isn’t above blackmail to get what he wants, but what he wants might be the daughter of his worst enemy. In the heat and sun of Provence, with roses, fountains, and ancient stone villages, even a beast can prove he is a prince at heart . . .
Beauty and the Werewolf book coverBeauty and the Werewolf
by Mercedes Lackey
Bella finds herself attacked by a wolf…who turns out to be a cursed nobleman. Secluded in his castle, she is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh– when he isn’t howling at the moon.

 

Night Talk by George Noory

Night Talk book coverGreg Nowell is a late-night talk show host covering a wide range of controversial subjects from aliens to cyber security. His talks of conspiracy become closer to reality when he is accused by the government of being the recipient of top-secret files in addition to receiving a call claiming he is responsible for the caller’s impending suicide. Greg is devoted to untangling the web of conflicting information to find the truth, even as his own life is on the line.

Between the short chapters and the constant revelations, it’s hard to stop turning the pages of Night Talk. As a bonus, George Noory brings his own experience as a radio host in the formation of the 2016 thriller.

Staff Pick- Good Eats Three: The Later Years by Alton Brown

Joanne from Community Services suggests Good Eats Three, The Later Years by Alton Brown

Good Eats 3 book coverAlton Brown has a very simple, but scientific, and methodical way of looking at food. In his book, Good Eats Three: The Later Years, Brown revisits the final 85 episodes of his culinary cult classic program, Good Eats. These shows highlight recipes, or “applications” that are simpler and feature common foods that people don’t ever think about making. It’s not fussy food, to say the least.

Each episode of Good Eats has a theme and tells the story about a certain food or culinary tradition. They can range from a certain cooking technique, like planking, or to the origin of a food like the Marshmallow.

Always the performer and informer, Brown’s gift is making the most mundane food interesting and he makes his audience think outside the pizza box. Episode 192: Celeryman deconstructs celery and even gives the reader an application for celery soda. Yum.

Although the show is over, this book can reignite your interest in cooking and the science behind it.

For more informative cookbooks and delicious recipes, try…

The Joy of Cooking book coverJoy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
In 1931 Irma Rombauer took her life savings and self-published a book called The Joy of Cooking. Now in an updated 75th Anniversary edition, the voice of the original authors are restored to provide many quick and healthy recipes for the way we cook today.
Mastering the art of French Cooking book coverMastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child
This collection that introduced America to Julia Child is for both seasoned cooks and beginners who love good food and long to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic cuisine.

 

Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless book coverMexico One Plate at a Time
by Rick Bayless
This great introduction to Mexican cuisine is a launchpad to master before you head into further exploration, more complicated techniques, and harder-to-find ingredients. These recipes are not complex, but they are authentic.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan
This author introduces the idea of pairing pasta shape with sauces, encouraged using seasonal produce in Italian cooking, and started the craze for balsamic vinegar.

 

2017 Tournament of Books

Picture of Tournament of Books display

“Art belongs to the beholder. But to give that beholder a mic for a second, make them test themselves out loud—whether it’s the judges or the commentariat—and then have everyone discuss it out in the open? That’s what we find interesting.”
Angela Chen

Every year The Morning News hosts The Tournament of Books. Sixteen books face off as various literary celebrity judges weigh their merits for advancement. The winner receives bragging rights and is offered the prize of a live rooster! Books considered for the bracket are fiction released in 2016 published in English. Last year the winner was The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which went on to be the first book from the United States of America to win the Man Booker Prize.

While it’s hard to narrow down some of our favorites from the sixteen, here are a few we are looking forward to hearing discussed:

 

Underground Railroad book coverThe Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

Version Control
by Dexter Palmer

The Vegetarian
by Han Kang

 

Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi

We Love You, Charlie Freeman
by Kaitlyn Greenidge

The Mothers book coverThe Mothers
by Brit Bennett

Book Discussion Questions: Guilt by Association by Susan R. Sloan

Guilt By Association book coverTitle:  Guilt by Association
Author:  Susan R. Sloan
Page Count: 496 pages
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Legal Fiction
Tone:  Plot-Driven, Suspenseful, Richly Detailed

Summary:
A provocative tale that mirrors today’s headlines, this page-turning first novel is a gripping account of one woman’s brave struggle to triumph over the pain of a vicious rape, her battle to rebuild her life and the ultimate, shocking confrontation with the man who nearly destroyed her.

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:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Did this book shock or disturb you? Why?

2. What was the author trying to accomplish by writing this novel — provide entertainment? deliver a message? something else?

3. In the beginning of the story, after Karen was raped the first time, the detective said that her case would never make it to court. Considering the times, if you were Karen, would you have pursued it any further?

4. Detective Haller said, “If it was my granddaughter, I’d tell her to go home and forget it – and be more careful the next time.” Sergeant Tug then said that if it was one of his granddaughters, he’d castrate the guy who did it. Again, considering the time, which thoughts would be closer to what your own might have been?

5. Do you believe in the first rape that Karen prompted her own misfortune in any way?

6. Were you surprised/angered at Karen’s parents reaction when Karen tried to tell them what happened? What was your opinion of Karen’s mom? What about her dad?

7. If you were Karen, would you have told Peter (her fiancé) the truth? If you were Peter, how do you think you might have reacted regarding Karen’s situation?

8. How important were Karen’s friends Demelza, Ione, Kevin, Mitch, Jenna, and Felicity? What attracted Karen to each?

9. How different was Nancy from Karen’s other friends?

10. What effect did Karen telling her friend Natalie, the psychiatrist, about the rape have on her?

11. It seemed inevitable that Karen and Ted would end up together. Were you happy for them? What attracted Ted to Karen? How was he different from Peter – especially when Karen told him that she had been brutally raped?

12. Was Karen a good stepmom to Ted’s girls Jessica and Gwen?

13. Were you surprised when Karen decided to work at Robert’s campaign office? Do you think she had her plan in mind from the very beginning when she started working there?

14. How did you feel when Karen went out for drinks with Robert and then accepted a ride home from him? Did you have any clue, at this point, what she had planned?

15. Putting yourself in Karen’s shoes, might you have made the same choices she did? Do you think it was worth putting herself through the same nightmare again so that she would be vindicated? Was it worth the payoff?

16. Were you surprised at how supportive Ted was? Do you think if he had known what Karen was up to, he would have put a stop to it?

17. Did Robert have any redeeming qualities? Why do think his wife Elizabeth stood by him all those years, knowing that he was having affairs?

18. After the second rape, everyone was supportive of Karen except her mother. Did you expect anything different?

19. Before the trial, Karen told the ADA, “I just hope I don’t let you down.” Why did she say that?

20. Why did the author choose Guilt by Association for the title? Was it a good choice? Is it distinctive enough?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

biographical information courtesy of Bainbridge Public Library
Kirkus book review of Guilt by Association
Publishers Weekly book review of Guilt by Association

READALIKES:

Breath of Scandal book coverBreath of Scandal
by Sandra Brown

Fifth Angel book coverThe Fifth Angel
by Tim Green

Weekend Warriors book coverWeekend Warriors
by Fern Michaels

Staff Pick: The Princess Bride

Picture of Diane“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

In a 2012 interview in New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin said that his most famous lines from The Princess Bride gets quoted back to him by at least two or three strangers every day of his life.  Check out all the quotable lines in the magical book by William Goldman or film!

 

 

Asked at the Desk: Mean Girls and Frenemies Fiction

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskWe adore when readers ask for themed suggestions, and this question from last week sent us on a fun scavenger hunt:

Do you know of any books with ‘mean girls’-type characters written for adults? I’m in the mood for something fun and snarky, but I like darker stories, too.

Absolutely! As we started collecting titles, we realized they come in different flavors and settings. Whether you are looking for characters living the high life, time-tested classics, dishy gossip, or chilling tales, there’s a frenemy story just for you…

Coworker Drama

Devil Wears Prada book coverThe Devil Wears Prada
Lauren Weisberger

Thrillingly Tense

Dare Me book coverDare Me
Megan Abbott

Reconstructing Amelia book coverReconstructing Amelia
Kimberly McCreight

 

Domestic Divas

Big Little Lies book coverBig Little Lies
Liane Moriarty

Momzillas book coverMomzillas
Jill Kargman

Keep Your Friends Close…

Friends and Foes book coverFriends & Foes
R. Billingsley and V. Murray

Crazy Rich Asians book coverCrazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan

Classic Manipulations

Crucible book coverThe Crucible
Arthur Miller

Emma book coverEmma
Jane Austen

 

Confronting Childhood

Sharp Objects book coverSharp Objects
Gillian Flynn

Cats Eye book coverCat’s Eye
Margaret Atwood

 

You too can ask at the desk! Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to say hello, or ask online to visit our virtual desk. We’re ready and eager to answer your bookish questions.

Staff Pick: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Picture of LarryTed’s twelve-year-old dachshund, Lily, has been a source of strength for him after his long-term relationship ended in bitterness and loneliness. Now Lily has a tumor shaped like an octopus growing on her head. Ted’s personal struggle caring for his dearest companion as the disease overtakes Lily is a self-realization experience which plays out in real life and in his vivid dreams. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley is serious and funny, emotional and insightful, and authentic in its depiction of the human experience.