Month: August 2013

Check It Out Blog

LISTS: If You Like Game of Thrones

Dragon's Path book coverSeason 3 of Game of Thrones ended in June. Have you been wearily wandering a godswood pining for dragons and battles to drag you out of your office chair? Don’t despair that Season 4 doesn’t start till Spring of 2014 – the Library can help.

If you liked Game of Thrones, click here for similar fantasy reads to fill your time.

A Bewitching, Illustrated Tale of Transformation

Raven Girl book coverThough it may seem unlikely that a man could fall in love with a raven, nothing is impossible in fairy tale realms. Man and raven love each other deeply and through the charmed unknown, conceive a child – a girl. The girl is human…and not at all human. She feels confined within her body. Not quite right. She is unable to fly…until she finds a doctor who may have the magic to unleash her true form. Raven Girl is the newest illustrated dark fantasy by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. If you like Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow or the TV show Once Upon a Time, you’ll probably like Raven Girl.

Masters of the PEN

Behind the Beautiful Forevers book coverThe PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, one of the most decorated books of 2012, added yet another well-deserved accolade in the John Kenneth Gailbraith Award for Nonfiction.  Additional highlights include

Literary Science Writing Award: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

Award for Literary Sports Writing: Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion by Mark Kram, Jr.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: Frank Deford

Award for Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Open Book Award: Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

Translation Prize: The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White

Tortured Souls Make Terrific Television

Difficult Men book coverFor a long time, bad guys were introduced primarily to add conflict for our heroes, but somewhere along the way, they grew on us. Those of you caught up in the final season of Breaking Bad know what we mean. Especially in the last decade, television has embraced a specific type of antihero, the “unhappy, morally compromised, complicated, deeply human characters who stir both our sympathy and our revulsion.” In Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, author Brett Martin explores not only signature characters of landmark series but also the show runners – the brilliant and often damaged men driving the programs through the casting, the writing, and the directing. What does the success of these shows have to say about those who craft them? And what does it say about those of us who watch?

LISTS: Found Footage Horror

Blair Witch Project DVD coverFilms like Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield are examples of the found footage-style of horror. This subgenre is marked by shaky camera work, characters who talk off screen, and film recordings discovered (usually) after the movie’s protagonists have died or gone missing.

Click here for the aforementioned films and more found footage horror.

A 9-year-old Spitfire Hits the Road

Whistling Past the Graveyard book coverIt’s 1963, Starla is 9, and she’s run away from home. Home is in Mississippi with her grandma, Mamie, a woman who’s long-suffering and just trying to get by. Starla’s daddy is off on an oil rig and the last anyone knew of Starla’s mom, she was in Nashville trying to become the next Patsy Cline. Starla doesn’t want to be Mamie’s bother and she certainly doesn’t want boarding school, so she hits the road. Eula, a kind black woman traveling with an abandoned white baby, picks up Starla along the way. If you liked The Secret Life of BeesSaving CeeCee Honeycutt or The Help, try Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall.

Book Discussion Questions: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

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

Title: Cleopatra: A Life
Author: Stacy Schiff
Page Count: 368
Genre: Biography
Tone: Academic, Deeply-researched, complex

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Does Cleopatra interest you as a character in history? Why do you think she has interested artists and writers over the millennia?

2. Chapter 1 opens with the quote, “Man’s most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe.” Why do you think Stacy Schiff opened with this?

3. What is wrong with the statement that “a woman’s authority spelled a man’s deception”? (p. 4)

4. Schiff says that when it comes to Cleopatra’s history, “Affairs of the state have fallen away, leaving us with affairs of the heart.” (p. 7) What does that mean?

5. Did your perspective of Rome change at all? How did Cleopatra see Rome? Contrast that with how we might view Rome.

6. Was Cleopatra Egyptian? If not, where did her family originate from?

7. How does pop culture view Cleopatra? How has Schiff expanded that view?

8. Do you have a favorite pop culture version of Cleopatra?

9. Is Cleopatra a good leader?

10. Do you think that Cleopatra loved either Caesar or Mark Antony or did she only use them for political gain? Does it matter?

11. Who did Cleopatra have children by? Did these children matter politically? How? (p. 193)

12. What is the difference between being described as manipulative vs. being described as strategic? How was Cleopatra described? Why? Do you agree?

13. Can you think of women in today’s world that compare to Cleopatra? How are these modern women depicted by the media?

14. What could today’s female leaders learn from Cleopatra? Are those lessons different than what a male leader might take from Cleopatra’s story?

15. Women held a lot of power in ancient Egypt. What was your reaction to this?

16. Did Romans view women the same way Egyptians did?

17. What fun or odd historical anecdotes did you gain from reading Cleopatra?

18. What are reasons why people should read of the ancient world?

19. The Egyptians of Cleopatra’s era were obsessed with Homer. What is gained from memorizing poets? What is gained from the reading of classics?

20. Cleopatra was 21 when she raised an army. Her brother was 15 when he led it. (p. 11) Did the accomplishments of people by young ages surprise you?

21. In Cleopatra’s time, teachers were revered and housed by the state. (p. 39) Do you think this is a custom that should be renewed?

22. When Cleopatra first comes into power, she curries favor with religious groups. (p. 57) Why would she do this? Do you see any parallels in this concept in modern day political life?

23. What were some of the differences between Caesar and Mark Antony? (p. 185)

24. What was Antony and Octavian’s relationship?

25. What were Octavian and Antony battling over?

26. Antony married Octavia. How was she similar or different to Cleopatra? (p. 191)

27. Cleopatra is a wealthy woman. Where did her wealth come from? Did she use her wealth wisely?

28. Do you think that political leaders today are wealthy? Does this lead to any problems with connecting to their constituents?

29. Were you surprised by any of the technology mentioned having existed in ancient history? (Ex: automatic doors, hydraulic lifts, coin-operated machines, etc. – p. 75)

30. Schiff states, “Octavian continued to threaten Cleopatra publicly while privatly he maintained that if she killed Antony she would have her pardon.” (p. 288) Did you think that Cleopatra would kill Antony? Why or why not?

31. Why did Antony kill himself? (p. 293)

32. How did Cleopatra die? (p. 305 – 306)

33. Have you read any other books by Stacy Schiff? How does this one compare to previous reads? Would you go on to read more by this author?

34. What do you think the marketing of this book portrayed it as? (Cover, blurbs, reviews, etc.) Do you think the marketing matched the book?

35. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?


Other Resources

Stacy Schiff’s website
Hatchette reading group guide
Stacy Schiff on C-SPAN
Stacy Schiff on The Daily Show
WBEZ interview with Stacy Schiff
The New York Times interview with Stacy Schiff
Cleopatra Wikipedia entry
Cleopatra as a subject of paintings


If you liked Cleopatra, try…

Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
The October Horse by Colleen McCullough

Marie Antoinette book cover     Catherine the Great book coverOctober Horse book cover



The Story in the Cards

Loteria book coverLuz Castillo is a temporary ward of the state, and she’s not talking. Instead, she spends her time shuffling and re-shuffling a deck of Lotería cards, a BINGO-like game that uses riddles and pictures instead of numbers. Each card she draws sparks a memory which she records in a journal, and we readers are invited to peek over her shoulder. These entries, only a few pages each, allow us to piece together the events that caused her mother’s disappearance, her father’s imprisonment, and the fate of her sister. Lotería, an artful debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, is presented in a small hardcover edition featuring color prints of each image to lead the chapter revelations.