Month: June 2013

Check It Out Blog

Four Rare Falcons to Save a Knight

Hawk Quest book coverIt’s 1072. Once, Vallon was a respected military commander, but now he’s a jaded sell-sword. While seeking shelter during a storm in the Alps, Vallon stumbles onto the deathbed of Cosmas of Byzantium. After Cosmas dies, Vallon grudgingly inherits Cosmas’ quest to gather four white falcons from the far corners of the earth as a ransom for a captured knight. Vallon won’t adventure alone. His new faction contains a medical student, a master falconer, the stepbrother of the captured knight, a crossbowman, and a hulking dog. So much for going at life alone. If you like historical fiction à la Ben Kane, Bernard Cornwell, and Joe Abercrombie, you’ll like the blood-red battlefields and anti-heroes of Robert Lyndon’s Hawk Quest.

Book Discussion Questions: The Submission by Amy Waldman

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


Title: The Submission
Author: Amy Waldman
Page Count: 299
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Issue-driven, dramatic, politically provocative

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

1.  Before you opened The Submission, what were your thoughts/feelings about reading what might be reductively termed a “9/11 book”?  Had you read others? Did your feelings change as you read and/or in retrospect?

2.  Was this a hard book to read? Did you enjoy it? Did it make you uncomfortable?

3.  When we present this book, we sometimes struggle with the fact that a quick summary doesn’t fully represent what the book is. How might you describe The Submission to others?

4.  One could argue that not much happens in this book – that it is a protracted debate. Is this accurate? Would you have wanted more to happen?

5.  Could you see this happening? Any development that strains credibility? Do you know of events that have unfolded similarly? (e.g., Maya Lin and Vietnam memorial, Flight 93 memorial, uproar over a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero)

6.  If you had served on the jury, how would you have voted?

7.  Much of the power of this book comes from the multiple perspective narration. Were there specific characters’ stories in which you especially found yourself invested? Why do you think that is? Any in which you weren’t as interested? Did it change throughout the story?

8.  How would the book have been different if told from one perspective?

9.  Who would you say are the most central characters in this book – i.e. whose story is this?

10.  Mo hardly even thinks of himself as Muslim. Would it change the story if he were devout?

11.  To what extent do we consider the artist when we perceive or evaluate art? Does it/should it matter? Consider authors or actors or filmmakers.

12.  One of the big issues is that Mo refuses to offer reassurances. Should he have? Do you understand why he wouldn’t?

13.  In what ways are Mo and Asma perceived as “lesser Americans”? Do they perceive themselves this way? What is your personal reaction to this idea?

14.  How did you feel with the newspaper phrasing of Claire “sleeping with the enemy” and all that it implied?

15.  In what ways are the plot and characters affected by the juxtaposition of Ramadan?

16.  Do you think Asma regretted speaking out?

17.  Should Mo have been willing to change design?

18.  What struck you most about the public hearing? In what ways do the speakers and events of this single scene represent the themes of the book? Would you say the views are balanced?

19.  Think about the secondary characters, such as Yuki and Debbie. What do they contribute to the story?

20.  Are there villains in this story? Is everyone presented fairly?

21.  How is journalism as an institution portrayed? (Remember, Waldman herself is a journalist.) Do you agree that “people want to be told what to think” and/or that “people want to be told what they already think is right”?

22.  To which “submission” does the title refer?

23.  In terms of theme, Waldman is quoted in one interview as saying:

“The novel has a lot of different themes, but one is in the wake of 9/11, who do we trust?  How do we decide who to trust?  American Muslims, how do we think about them?  How do we understand Islam when there is so much fear and confusion around it?  And I think the ambivalence even many liberals have felt since 9/11 is how to feel about these things…[including wanting to be open but still very much afraid]”

Are these ideas explored effectively? Are there answers?

24.  What did you think about the ending? Did it surprise you? Could/should it have ended differently?

25.  This is Waldman’s first novel. Is that apparent?

26.  What is the problem with thinking of family members from 9/11 (or any tragedy) as a single group? Is there room to consider diversity of class, politics, age, faith and represent all fairly?


Other Resources:

Amy Waldman’s website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Seattle Public Library’s Reading Group Toolbox for The Submission
PBS interview with Amy Waldman
CBS Author Talk with Amy Waldman
Idaho Public TV interview with Amy Waldman
The New York Observer on The Submission
New York Times review of The Submission
Washington Post review of The Submission


If you liked The Submission, try…

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

     Let the Great World Spin book cover

A Beautiful Telling of an Ugly Aftermath

Round House audiobook cover

National Book Award winner The Round House is an iron fist in a velvet glove. In this intimate stunner, Joe is a thirteen-year-old living with his parents on a North Dakota reservation. When his mother is raped, he cannot bear to watch her waste away in a self-imposed prison of silence and suffering. Instead, he determines to do what he can to bring peace to his family, even as he struggles with understanding his own place in a complicated intersection of worlds. This powerful tale gains even greater impact in the measured pacing and authentic cadence of performer Gary Farmer. With an eye for detail and an ear for language, author Louise Erdrich masterfully crafts a layered, thoughtful narrative that exposes both beauty and truth.


Weetzie Bat book coverIn honor of June as LGBT Pride Month, here’s a quote from Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat, “…and when the audience said, ‘What sexual preference do you hope she has?’ they all go together, they go, ‘Happiness.’”

Click here for gay fiction.
Click here for lesbian fiction.
For bisexuality in fiction, click here.
For transgender culture in fiction, click here.

Ancient Treasures, Stolen Artifacts, and the Art World

Witch of Babylon book coverJohn Madison is an art dealer turned Indiana Jones. Madison is determined to locate the ancient artifact his brother died trying to find. The relic was looted from Iraq’s National Museum. What Madison doesn’t know is that it may contain the alchemic secret of turning metal into gold. Assisted by an archaeologist and a photojournalist – both of whom have their own dark secrets, John Madison races against the clock to unravel a revenge plot and biblical prophecy in D.J. McIntosh’s The Witch of Babylon. Fans of Raymond Khoury, James Rollins, and Clive Cussler will probably enjoy this first adventurous thriller in a projected series of three.

Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now

Pam of Research Services recommends Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now by Margaret Coel:

The Arapaho of the Wind River Indian Reservation are the foundation of each book in Margaret’s Coel’s fast paced mystery series. The Arapaho serve as the conduit from the past to the present, as in this book’s focus on Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Buffalo Bill showcased the culture of America’s Native Americans, introduced the then dying Wild West to European audiences in London, Rome, Paris, and cities in Germany, and provided a peek into a world gone forever. Chief Black Hawk’s regalia, discovered in Europe, will be returned to Wind River after 120 years. Should artifacts be held by private collectors or preserved in their native land? Coel examines the past becoming the present in Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now.

Best Audiobooks of the Year

Age of Miracles audiobook coverCelebrate June is Audiobook Month by turning a ready ear to the brand new winners of the 2013 Audie Awards. Whether on a sunny walk, a cross-country road trip, or even a daily commute, you will find the journey to be all the better in the company of an expert story. Audiobook listeners can also earn chances for prizes in MPPL’s 2013 summer reading program, Have Book, Will Travel, so why not start with one of these?

Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles (Walker) – read by Emily Rankin
Literary Fiction: Bring Up the Bodies (Mantel) – read by Simon Vance
Mystery: The Beautiful Mystery (Penny) – read by Ralph Cosham
Romance: The Witness (Roberts) – read by Julia Whelan
Solo Narration – Female: Katherine Kellgren for The Boy in the Suitcase (Kaaberbøl and Friis)
Solo Narration – Male: Edoardo Ballerini for Beautiful Ruins (Walter)
Teens: The Fault in Our Stars (Green) – read by Kate Rudd
Children’s Title for Ages 8-12: Same Sun Here – written and read by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Children’s Titles for Ages Up to 8: The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case (McCall Smith) – read by Adjoa Andoh