Month: April 2013

Check It Out Blog

Larry’s Pick: The Metabarons

Larry Staff picks photoThe Metabarons by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez is an epic space opera graphic novel. The characters include humanoids, cyborgs, and other mechanical and living creatures. It is a story of bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, survival, ethics, and morality.  The plot, enhanced by luscious illustrations, makes this book a page-turner.

Everything is Connected

Dirk Gently DVD coverHow does the search for a missing cat turn into a warehouse explosion and a dead billionaire?  Only in the world of Dirk Gently, an invention of Douglas Adams, can randomness and chaos actually back into solving cases.  The anti-Sherlock Holmes, Gently eschews logic and deduction and instead holds tight to his faith in the interconnectedness of all things.  Of course, this holistic approach comes at a price, a price that may include charging clients for a new refrigerator or a Bahamas vacation because, after all, that’s part of the process, too.  New to DVD, the 2010 pilot and handful of 2012 episodes are just enough to endear the manic Dirk Gently and his put-upon partner to viewers ready for a madcap departure from the stereotypical British detective.

LISTS: For METAL!!! Maniacs

No Remorse album cover“We want to be the band that if we moved in next door to you, your lawn would die,” said Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead. From hair bands to thrash to Finnish folk death metal, the Library has your heavy metal needs covered.

For metal movies and books, click here.
Click here for classic metal bands.
Click here for 80s metal bands.
Click here for contemporary metal.

Defeating Negativity

Century of Wisdom book coverAlice Herz-Sommer and her young son survived Theresienstadt concentration camp due to her skills on the piano, having played over 100 concerts for the Nazis. Today, Alice is 109 years old. She lives in a London flat by herself and still plays 3 hours of piano a day. A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor expresses the positive mindset that let Alice survive and thrive though her closest friends and family did not. Alice’s life has crossed continents and she’s met the likes of Kafka, Mahler, Freud, and Rilke. She is a firm believer that music fights despair and that it can help fine-tune a positive mental outlook.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Orphan Master's Son book coverThe U.S. book world uttered a collective sigh of relief when the 2013 Pulitzer committee actually named a Fiction winner.  Still reeling from the unpopular decision to withhold the 2012 Prize, readers have even more reason to celebrate The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, the worthy recipient of this year’s honor.  Lauded as “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart,” The Orphan Master’s Son was selected over fellow finalists What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  The Prize is given annually to a work of distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.

Colleen’s Pick: Vampire Academy

Colleen staff picks photoVampire Academy, the first in a series, introduces us to a world where vampires exist. Rose is dhampir, half human – half vampire, and in training at St. Vladimir’s Academy to protect the vampire ruling class. This fast-paced, supernatural romance appeals to those of us who still love a good vampire novel.

The Daughter She Thought She Knew

Reconstructing Amelia book coverFans of the fast-paced, twisty Gone Girl will want to plunge into Reconstructing Amelia.  Already battling working single-mother guilt, Kate is stunned to be called to her daughter’s private school after allegations of cheating.  On arrival she stumbles into emergency workers surrounding the crumpled body of a student and is shattered to be told her own Amelia has committed suicide.  Weeks later, Kate is sent a text which reads simply, “Amelia didn’t jump.”  Told in alternating voices by mother and daughter, Kate’s quest to find out what actually happened unearths startling revelations.  Was Amelia not the good girl she appeared to be?  Would someone wish her actual harm?  Kimberly McCreight’s mesmerizing debut makes the most of painful secrets and devastating betrayal.

LISTS: Hip Hop

Decoded book coverIn his book Decoded, Jay-Z said, “Hip-hop has always been controversial, and for good reason…The music is meant to be provocative – which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily obnoxious, but it is (mostly) confrontational, and more than that, it’s dense with multiple meanings. Great rap should have all kinds of unresolved layers that you don’t necessarily figure out the first time you listen to it. Instead it plants dissonance in your head.”

Click here for albums from the golden age of hip hop.
If you want to read Jay-Z’s Decoded or other nonfiction about rap, click here.
In the mood for a novel? Click here for fiction involving hip hop.

An Interview with Todd Robinson, Author of The Hard Bounce

Todd Robinson author photoTodd Robinson, also known as Big Daddy Thug, is similar to Pat Benatar in one essential way – he hits you with his best shot. His debut novel, The Hard Bounce, is a fast-paced, heart-pounder of a gritty mystery. Unlike Benatar, who shoulder shimmied her way out of knife fights, Robinson looks like he could punch a knife out of your hand, catch it mid-air, and fling it past your ear as a warning without breaking a sweat. He’s broad, bearded, often in black – and thank the literary gods – a peaceable author, too busy writing to get in many fights.

Robinson is the Chief Editor of Thuglit, a crime fiction journal dedicated to “writing about wrongs”. His novel, The Hard Bounce, came out in January. It focuses on Boo and Junior, two regular guys who are bouncers at a Boston punk rock bar. Their security company, 4DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap), is hired to find a missing girl. What begins as an easy job quickly spirals out of control.

Robinson kindly took time out of his editing and writing to speak a piece to the Mount Prospect Public Library.


Mount Prospect Public Library: Where did the idea for The Hard Bounce come from?

Todd Robinson: Many years ago, I worked at a legendary rock club in Boston called The Rathskeller that would throw all-ages punk shows on Sunday afternoons. One afternoon, this young girl in pink dreads caught my eye. I remembered her, because I marveled at the courage of that kid—to do her own thing at an age when most kids try anything to “fit in”. A few hours later, her father showed up at the bar looking for her. I guess she broke curfew. He had a picture of her that showed a clean-cut kid, not the dreadlocked individualist I’d seen only a few hours later. Three things stuck with me from that incident. The first was that I never found out what happened from that point. The second was: what turned that kid from the one in the picture to the one I saw? The third was: were I suddenly put in a position to find that kid, how would I go about it?


MPPL: The Hard Bounce is set in Boston. Do you think this story could have been told anywhere else?

TR: I don’t know. I live in New York now, and I know that the same story couldn’t happen here the way it did in Boston. I’m not even sure that it could unfold the way it does in today’s Boston. I more or less dropped the story into the old Boston that I knew and loved—that really isn’t there anymore. It’s a love letter to a particular time and place in my life.


MPPL: Is The Hard Bounce a standalone novel or can we expect to see more of Boo and Junior?

TR: As of right now, it’s a standalone simply because I only have a one book contract. Hell, right now my “career” is a standalone. However, I always planned out the stories of Boo & Junior as a series, and am working on #2 right now.


The Hard Bounce book coverMPPL: How do you want to leave your readers feeling?

TR: Less like they’ve been on a wild ride, but that they’ve shared a particularly rough and tumble episode in a person’s life. That’s what I want the entire series to feel like. I want the reader to experience moments within the character’s lives more than skipping through individual episodes. I want there to be repercussions in book 4 from book 1.


MPPL: Have you ever been called to write in a genre outside of noir or mystery?

TR: Matter of fact, I was working on a horror novel when the call came in on The Hard Bounce. Frankly, I’d given up on it. I wrote one horror short story, and then adapted it into a screenplay. That screenplay made it very far in the Nicholl Fellowships Competition, so I thought I should try my hand at horror on a larger scale.


MPPL: You are the creator and Chief Editor of Thuglit. What has editing others taught you about your own writing?

TR: Man, nothing has taught me more about the flaws in my own writing than nitpicking the work of others. It’s an epiphany when you find something that you absolutely hate in someone else’s work—and then realize that you do the exact same thing.


MPPL: Recently on The Daily Beast, Frank Bill asked, “Is Masculine Writing Dead?” He laments the loss of physical labor and ruggedness represented in contemporary fiction. Do you agree with this? Do you feel yourself to be a “masculine” writer?

TR: Beyond him being one hell of a writer, I consider Frank Bill a friend, so I’m not going to go into detail on the piece (since the Internet has already praised to high heaven AND torn it a new butthole). So, without sounding judgmental or getting political and avoiding the question, I’ll just say this about the piece: I agree with a lot of the sentiment within the opinion, but I don’t necessarily agree with Frankie’s narrow definition of masculinity.

I do consider myself to be a writer of masculine fiction, which is why I’m a little surprised at the incredibly positive response that The Hard Bounce has been getting from female readers. Just goes to show you how much I know about women. (Sighs)


MPPL: What are several classic crime novels or short stories that everyone should read?

TR: John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series is a must. They were just re-issued. Start with The Deep Blue Good-by. He created the classic template for the modern American crime series. Then read The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins. It’s THE classic Boston crime novel. More people need to read it. I’m amazed at how little known it is outside of the hardcore fans.


MPPL: What about several newer writers you’ve enjoyed lately?

TR: I already mentioned Frank Bill, so let’s add Josh Stallings, Matt McBride, Johnny Shaw, Chris Holm, to name the most recent that I’ve read. Two guys to watch out for are Joe Clifford, Justin Porter, and Jordan Harper. All of these guys absolutely kill it on the short story scene and have in-the-works novels that I’m really looking forward to reading.


MPPL: The Hard Bounce is chock full of music references. Is music important to your creative process?Social Distortion dancing skeleton logo

TR: It is. I like setting a musical tone to write to, to help set a scene in my head emotionally. For the longest time, I couldn’t listen to anything with a lyric. I was such a bad typist any external words would f— up my own. I did most of my writing to jazz and opera—opera not counting, since I couldn’t understand what the hell they were saying.


MPPL: What albums are always on your rotation?

TR: Anything by Social Distortion, Clutch, The Cramps, and Tom Waits. Those are my big four. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, and Florence and the Machine. I know that’s all over the place, but it’s what I dig.


MPPL: It took 10 years, 5 agents, 4 publishers, and 37 drafts to get The Hard Bounce out…how’s the timeline looking for your next novel?

TR: No better…(Sighs)


MPPL: What does success mean to you? How do you know when you’ve “made it”?

TR: I pay my bills with bartending. Every once in a while, somebody comes in and asks, “Hey! How goes the writing?” My answer is always the same. It’s, “I’m still on this side of the bar, ain’t I? You’ll know it’s going well by either my absence or when I’m sitting at the bar next to you.”


Be sure to check out Todd Robinson’s tough-talking, hard-hitting first novel, The Hard Bounce. Then come to the Fiction/AV/Teen desk to share your thoughts or get great suggestions on what to read next.

Book Discussion Questions: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin book coverSPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.


Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Page Count: 400
Genre: Epistolary Fiction
Tone: Disturbing, Compelling, Sobering

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

1.    Can a child be born bad?

2.    What do you think the epigraph meant? Does it tell us anything about how the author feels about her subject?

3.    What did you think of the epistolary style? Do you enjoy novels in letters?

4.    If you were in Eva’s place, would you have stayed living within the community?

5.    Would you have visited Kevin in jail if he was your child? Do you think that it did Kevin any good to be visited by his mother every Saturday?

6.    Eva didn’t have painkillers when she gave birth to Kevin. She says there is a “…little competition between women about childbirth.” (p.73) Is there a right and a wrong way to give birth? Does having a c-section or using anesthetics “downgrade” the motherhood experience?

7.    Eva made sure that Kevin got her last name. What does this say about her? (p. 59)

8.    Do you think a baby is capable of liking one parent more than the other? Was this the case with Kevin?

9.    Did Eva’s sabbatical from AWAP help her relationship with Kevin? What about with Franklin?

10.    While waiting to see Kevin in jail, Eva meets another prisoner’s mother. That mother says

“It’s always the mother’s fault, ain’t it?…that boy turn out bad cause his mama a drunk, or she a junkie. She let him run wild, she don’t teach him right from wrong. She never home when he back from school. Nobody ever say his daddy a drunk, or his daddy not home after school. And nobody ever say they some kids just damned mean. Don’t you believe that old guff. Don’t you let them saddle you with all that killing.” (p. 166)

Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

11.    Why do you think that Eva didn’t want to move to the suburbs? Franklin seemed to believe that a child could not be raised positively in a large city. Do you think he was right?

12.    Do you think Kevin purposefully ruined his mother’s wall of maps? Why? Do you think Eva deserved it? (p. 155)

13.    Why do you think Eva’s relationship got better with her own mother after the school shooting?

14.    If you were Kevin’s mother, would you have participated in the documentary made about him?

15.    Eva has this exchange with Kevin during a jail visit:

“All right…I need to know. Do you blame me? It’s all right to say so, if that’s what you think. Is that what you tell your psych consults, or they tell you? It all traces back to your mother.”
He snapped, “Why should you get all the credit?” (p. 172)

What does this conversation expose? What does it say about Kevin?

16.    Kevin then goes on to talk disparagingly about his father in a baby talk voice. He plainly didn’t like Franklin. (p. 173) Why do you think he faked being close to his father for so long?

17.    Kevin tells his mother that he was proud of her when she used violence against him to use the bathroom (p. 174 & 194). Do you think he meant this? How do you think this made Eva feel?

18.    Why do you think Eva did better with her second pregnancy?

19.    Celia seemed perfect from birth. Do you think this was Eva putting on rose colored glasses? Do you think that Eva is reliable when talking about her children?

20.    Why do you think that Lionel Shriver included a passage about Kevin being helpless and sick? (p. 235) What did this show about both Kevin and his mother?

21.    Do you think that there’s ever a time when it is better for both a child and a parent to separate from one another at an early age?

22.    If you were the parent of one of Kevin’s victims, would you have allowed Eva to come to your child’s funeral?

23.    Is there any way for Eva to make amends for what her son did? Should Eva have to make amends?

24.    Do you think that Kevin burned his little sister’s eye out with Liquid Plumr? What was Eva’s reaction to this situation? How about Franklin’s? (p. 292)

25.    Do you think Kevin’s drama teacher molested him? (p. 336)

26.    Why do you think Kevin wanted to be on Prozac? (p. 349) Was it part of a plan for his future defense?

27.    Were you surprised when Kevin had his mother’s picture in his jail cell? (p. 353)

28.    Why did Kevin kill the children that he did?

29.    Why do you think he killed the one teacher that cared about him?

30.    Why do you think he killed his father and sister?

31.    Eva finds Franklin and Celia dead in the backyard. Did you see that coming?

32.    How did you feel when you found out that Franklin and Eva weren’t separated via divorce, but through death?

33.    Eva asks Kevin why he didn’t kill her and he says, “When you’re putting on a show, you don’t shoot the audience.” (p. 394) What did he mean by that?

34.    Has Kevin grown as a person by the end of the novel?

35.    Kevin received 7 years for the murder of 11 people. Do you think this was a fair sentence?

36.    Do you think that the parents of school shooting victims should be able to sue the parents of the shooter for parental negligence?

37.    If you were Eva, would you allow Kevin to live with you after he got out of jail?

38.    What do you think Lionel Shriver’s purpose was in writing We Need to Talk About Kevin?

39.    Did you finish the book?

40.    Did you like the book?


Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide book discussion questions
BBC HardTalk interview with Lionel Shriver
ITV Local interview with Lionel Shriver
Big Think interview with Lionel Shriver
Lionel Shriver on not having children
Lionel Shriver’s personal experience with a mass shooting
Genetic Basis for Crime” article in The New York Times


If you liked We Need to Talk About Kevin, try…

Room by Emma Donoghue
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

Room book cover     Fifth Child book coverButcher Boy book cover