Month: November 2013

Check It Out Blog

Lists: If You Like Janet Evanovich

One for the Money book coverJanet Evanovich is best known for her character Stephanie Plum, a smart-mouthed, side-job, bumbling bounty hunter. Evanovich writes funny, upbeat mysteries with a dash of romance. If you’re looking for more feisty heroines and villains that are more incompetent than evil, the Library has you covered.

If you like Janet Evanovich and are searching for similar authors, click here.

Nonfiction: Glitter and Glam by Melanie Mills

Glitter and Glam book coverTis the season for holiday parties! Fab up your look with Glitter and Glam: Dazzling Makeup Tips for Date Night, Club Night, and Beyond by Melanie Mills. Mills, the Emmy award-winning makeup artist for Dancing With the Stars, showcases opulent, artful makeup through step-by-step tutorials and high fashion photos. From skin care basics to professional makeup techniques for all skin tones, Mills gives novices and beauty junkies alike the tools to create a stunning face. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a look right the first time you attempt it. Remember, makeup takes practice and having the right makeup brushes matters! Check out Glitter and Glam to be extra glitzy while standing under the mistletoe this Christmas.

And for the fashion-minded suit-wearers out there, check out The Handbook of Style by Esquire Magazine. It collects tips and tricks for putting your most dapper foot forward.

Book Discussion Questions: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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


Title: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O’Brien
Page Count: 246
Genre: Autobiographical war fiction, Short stories
Tone: Gritty, character-driven, thought-provoking


Questions Composed by MPPL Staff

1. Was The Things They Carried a work of fiction or nonfiction? Did the author do anything to muddy the waters between the two categories?

2. Why do you think Tim O’Brien titled the book as he did? What physical objects did the soldiers carry and what did these objects mean to their survival and mental health?

3. The Things They Carried is full of different points of view – re: the use of first person (“I”), the use of second person (“You”), and the use of third person (“He, She, They”). Why do you think O’Brien slipped back and forth between different points of view? How did it affect your reading experience?

4. What was O’Brien’s job before he went to war? How did this job prepare him for war? Why does O’Brien go to war? Is it about bravery?

5. Do the soldiers ever fight each other? Why do they fight? How is that fighting different than what goes on with the enemy?

6. In “How to Tell a True War Story,” O’Brien says,

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue.”

What is your reaction to that quote? Can you think of other movies, poems, novels, or short stories that hold this same sentiment?

7. Do soldiers today deal with the same issues that soldiers in Vietnam dealt with in The Things They Carried?

8. Was your understanding of war expanded by reading this book? How? What were some startling or surprising elements you learned about?

9. How did it make you feel to read this book? How did your brain react? How did your body react? What about your heart?

10. What were some examples of black humor in The Things They Carried? Why do you think the soldiers had such dark humor? What did it accomplish?

11. What are words you would use to describe this book? Think about the tone and about the pacing.

12. How many stories deal with Kiowa’s death? What is the purpose of each story? Why do you think the author chose to separate Kiowa’s death into so many different parts? In the end, who do you think is responsible for Kiowa’s death?

13. O’Brien uses repetition as a storytelling device. How does this writing technique affect the narrative?

14. O’Brien says, “Stories can save us.” What does that mean? Do you think it is a true statement? Can you think of a story that saved you at one time or another?

15. Recall a passage or an image that has stuck with you from this book. Retell it in as much detail as possible for us. Why did this moment stick with you?

16. Many book clubs have read a plethora of fiction and nonfiction books on WWII. How might reading about WWII be easier for participants than reading about Vietnam or more current conflicts?

17. In our current culture, there are a flood of fiction and nonfiction books written about WWII or with WWII as the backdrop. There are not nearly as many popular novels and nonfiction tales set against Vietnam. What do you think that is?

18. Yet, there are many, many Vietnam movies out there. Why do you think movies about the Vietnam War may be more popular than novels or nonfiction bout it?

19. Do you think voluntarily enlisting in a war versus being drafted into a war will change the type and tone of stories told about that war? How does that possibility ring true for Vietnam War stories that have been told?

20. Many high school students are assigned to read The Things They Carried. Why do you think this book ends up on required reading lists? Do you think it is an appropriate read for that age group?

21. What were the hardest parts of The Things they Carried for you to get through?

22. The Things They Carried is only 246 pages. Was it a fast read? Did it feel longer than it was?

23. Would you read more by the author Tim O’Brien?

24. Who would you recommend this book to and why?


Other Resources

California State University Northridge’s book discussion questions
National Endowment for the Arts’ guides to The Things They Carried
Reading Group Guides’ book discussion questions
Tim O’Brien on C-SPAN
Tim O’Brien on NPR
Tim O’Brien’s archive


If you liked The Things They Carried, try…

Fire and Forget edited by Matt Gallagher
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Fire and Forget book cover    Matterhorn book cover


Nonfiction: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary

Borden Tragedy graphic novel coverNow that the first photo of Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden has been released, you will want to read about the legendary crime for yourself. The final days of Graphic Novels Month is an opportune time to delve into The Borden Tragedy: A Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder. The 21st Century has no monopoly on sensationalized true crime stories, and this volume of the Victorian Murder series illustrates the facts and questions as they are known. The heavy black frames and recurring use of patterned lines add to both the ominous tone and the historic feel. We may never know for certain who got away with murder that fateful day, but Rick Geary presents the case with startling clarity.

Lists: Classical Composers in Films

Amadeus DVD coverAmadeus centers around the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 18th century Vienna. It won eight Academy Awards, including that of Best Picture. But you’ve seen Amadeus a thousand times and are dying for another classical music movie…so now what?

Click here for other films that feature classical composers.

Nonfiction: The Mac and Cheese Cookbook by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade

Mac and Cheese Cookbook coverDo you know what you need to battle winter? A big, hot bowl of mac and cheese. If you read The Mac and Cheese Cookbook by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade, you will never again want to touch store-bought mac and cheese. Classic Mac, Vermont White Cheddar Mac, Gilroy Garlic Mac, Sriracha Mac, Shepherd’s Mac…and that’s just getting started! Arevalo and Wade detail easy recipes based on a simple béchamel (the mother of all sauces that each cheese sauce is built from). Full of traditional comfort food and experimental, cheesy adventures, The Mac and Cheese Cookbook will fill you up – but save room for dessert! The Banana Cream Pie, Lime Bars, and Homemade Oreos are to die for.

Fiction: Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets graphic novel coverFinding your place in this life can be a tricky proposition. Our upbringing leaves its mark, but ultimately we make our own choices. In the case of creator Craig Thompson, fulfillment might be found in religious faith, devotion to art, or intoxicating first love. The question is whether they have to be mutually exclusive. Multiple-award winner Blankets is a revealing autobiographical novel that celebrates the bittersweet. Stark black and white illustrations enhance this poignant coming-of-age story by adding layers that straight prose cannot offer. Wrap yourself in Blankets and be pleasantly surprised at how much a graphic novel has the power to tug at your heart.

Programs: Graphic Novels for Grown-ups

amazon gift card imageDo you want to win a portable DVD player or a gift card to Amazon? You can score these prizes (and more!) by reading comics during Graphic Novels for Grown-ups month at the Library!

To win prizes, all you have to do is:

1. Select a Graphic Novel from the Adult or Teen Graphic Novel collections (or choose one from the jar at the Fiction/AV/Teen desk).
2. Check out and read the Graphic Novel.
3. Come back to the Fiction/AV/Teen desk to fill out a raffle ticket.

You may enter as many times as you want and must be 18 or older to participate.

Don’t forget to ask staff what their favorite comics are or to ask for the Graphic Novels binder which features lists on topics as varied as romance, historical fiction, literary adaptations, true crime, award-winners, and zombies.