Month: September 2013

Check It Out Blog

My Name is Kinsey Millhone

G is for Grafton book coverKeeping readers interested in a single character for twenty-three books is no small feat, but Sue Grafton has led mystery fans through the alphabet to great success. From A is for Alibi (1982) to this month’s W is for Wasted, Grafton keeps fans coming back with fresh takes on new themes, varied structure, and intriguing stories. None of that would matter without a well-developed main character, one we feel we know well but who can still surprise us. Between letter releases, review the fascinating world of Kinsey Millhone in G is for Grafton by Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay. Investigate for yourself Kinsey’s history, habits, dilemmas, and cases, and deduce how Grafton’s skill with characterization and subtle world-building contribute to a groundbreaking and beloved series.

LISTS: Hard Sci-fi Books

Red Mars book coverSpace flights into the distant unknown. Walking on the moon – maybe not even our moon. Colonizing planets after decades of sleep in a cryo-pod. Battling with angry, self-aware robots. If you pine for these scenarios, technical details, deep scientific thought, and other-worldly adventures, try reading hard sci-fi.

To fire your engines up on a beginner’s list of hard sci-fi, click here.

The Psychological Effects of War

Sparta book coverConrad shocked his liberal parents – a therapist and a law teacher – when he enlisted in the marines after college. It was even more staggering when, four years later, their son came home from Iraq an entirely different person. Conrad had no physical injuries and was determined to restart his civilian life…but it wasn’t that simple. He was hyper-vigilant, suffered insomnia and debilitating headaches, he was afraid of his own room, and had growing issues with rage and associating with not only loved ones, but everyone. Sparta is a tense, bleak, extremely detailed novel on post-traumatic stress told through the first person point of view of a young soldier home from an unpopular war.

Hugo Awards Announced

Emperors Soul book cover

The 2013 Hugo Awards, the leading honor in the field of science fiction and fantasy, were announced earlier this month. Which worlds will you explore?

Best Novel: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

Best Novella: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Best Graphic Story: Saga, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Avengers, written and directed by Joss Whedon

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, written by George R.R. Martin, directed by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Best Professional Artist: John Picacio (check out the Elric series!)

They Came Back

The Returned audiobook coverHarold and Lucille have already known heartbreak. Their son Jacob died in a tragic accident at his eighth birthday party. When he arrives on their doorstep fifty years later, but still only eight years old, they don’t know if this is a miracle or a sign of the end. Even more worrisome is that this isn’t an isolated incident. A massive population of the formerly dead have returned around the globe, and the living have to decide if it’s possible — or desirable — to reintegrate them into their lives. The Returned by Jason Mott is one of the season’s most buzzed-about releases, and narrator Tom Stechschulte creates a deeply resonant storytelling experience.

LISTS: If You Like Tom Clancy

Threat Vector book coverTom Clancy’s high-speed page-turners star military-trained heroes battling larger-than-life enemies. International plots, terrorists, dangerous alliances, and weapons of mass destruction abound — but Clancy isn’t the only one to have conquered the military adventure genre.

Click here if you want action and tech-heavy fiction similar to Tom Clancy.

Nature Photography for Fall

Eliot Porter: In the Realm of NatureEliot Porter said, “Wilderness must be preserved; it is a spiritual necessity. Even though few may visit wilderness areas they remain an open back door, a safety valve for those who never enter them.” It was Porter’s landscape photography that helped pass the Wilderness Act of 1964 which helped protect 9.1 million acres of national forest and wilderness areas. Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature is a coffee table book full of both the color and black and white photography of an American photographer lesser known than Ansel Adams, but equally important in the protection and history of the wilds of the United States.

Book Discussion Questions: The Confession by John Grisham

Confession book cover

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


Title: The Confession
Author: John Grisham
Page Count: 418
Genre: Legal thriller
Tone: Fast-paced, suspenseful, dramatic

Questions composed by MPPL Staff:

1. When you first met Travis Boyette, what race did you think he was? John Grisham doesn’t mention it when he introduces Boyette. What do you think this assumption means?

2. One of the writing devices John Grisham uses is “summary briefs” where he uses court record summaries for back story. What did you think of this writing technique?

3. In Chapter 4, Joey Gamble admits to Private Investigator Fred Pryor that he lied to the police in an anonymous tip off that Donté was the killer, but he won’t sign an affidavit saying so. Why won’t Joey sign an affidavit?

4. In Chapter 5, Travis Boyette confesses to killing Nicole Yarber to the Reverend. What was Reverend Schroeder’s reaction to the confession? What was yours?

5. Why do you think Travis Boyette was willing to confess to the Reverend, but not to the police?

6. Reeva Yarber, the mother of the victim, is a rather loud, confrontational woman. What did you think of her and how she handled her daughter’s death? Is there a right or wrong way to handle the violent death of a child?

7. Detective Kerber, Reeva and others continually refer to Donté as “boy”. What was your reaction to the use of the word “boy”? What cultural connotations does that word carry?

8. Several reverends in Slone want to meet with the mayor to warn him of possible race riots if Donté is executed. Why are they worried about race riots occurring?

9. In Chapter 7, Donté’s confession is revealed. Why do you think Donté confessed?

10. Do you think false confessions are real? Are they an occurrence of the past or do you think they still go on?

11. When Reverend Keith Schroeder first calls Donté’s lawyer to report that he knows who the real killer is, Robbie Flak ignores his call. Why? (p. 103)

12. Since Donté has been put on death row, he’s gotten multiple marriage proposals from women who’ve never met him before. What’s that all about?

13. Is it more expensive for the state to house a prisoner or to execute them? (p. 108)

14. Travis Boyette disappeared and the Reverend finally found him in a hospital. Boyette tells the Reverend to leave his hospital room and not come back. Why won’t Travis film a confession from the hospital?

15. What was Donté’s prison experience like?

16. Do you think being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day constitutes as cruel and unusual punishment?

17. Did Donté ever have hope of getting out of prison? If so, when did he lose that hope? What did that look like?

18. Travis Boyette calls Keith Schroeder in the middle of the night. Travis wants Keith to drive him to Texas. What is Keith’s reaction to this? What is his wife’s reaction? What would your reaction have been?

19. When Keith and Travis are driving to Texas, we finally get to hear some of Travis’ back story. Why do you think Grisham gave us the convict’s back story? Did it make you realize anything about the character?

20. Boyette says, “Prisons are hate factories, Pastor, and society wants more of them. It ain’t working.” (p. 208) What does Boyette mean? Does Keith agree? Do you agree?

21. What did Donté pick as his last meal? Why?

22. Did Donté’s last petition get filed in time? Why or why not? How did this make you feel? (p. 310)

23. Why did Governor Gill Newton continually deny Donté a reprieve? (p. 332)

24. Donté was executed. Did it surprise you that Grisham followed through on this? Why do you think Grisham didn’t save his character?

25. Keith is warned he might lose his job for disgracing his current congregation with a possible criminal record. Does this end up mattering to him? Why or why not?

26. On page 471 it says, “…Lazarus, like most blacks in Slone, had never trusted the police.” Why do you think most of the African Americans in Slone didn’t trust the police? Is there a racial divide in who trusts the police and who doesn’t in real life? Why do you think Grisham would point this out?

27. Is Travis caught in the end? How? Were you surprised at his actions?

28. Did this book end the way you wanted it to?

29. Did John Grisham have an agenda with this novel? What was it? Did this book change the way you see the American justice system?

30. Do you believe in the death penalty?


Other Resources

John Grisham’s website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
John Grisham on ABC
John Grisham at BEA
Death Penalty Information Center
False confession Wikipedia entry
Photos from Death Row at Polunsky in Texas
The Innocence Project website


If you liked The Confession, try…

Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned by Richard S. Jaffe
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

     Execution of Noa P Singleton book cover


John’s Pick: King City

John staff picks photoBrandon Graham’s quirkily unique graphic novel King City follows Joe, an aimless master of “cat-fu” (i.e., able to use his pet as an absurdly versatile weapon). Joe traverses through a densely pun-filled futuristic metropolis in this elaborate tale enhanced by a playful, high-energy style.