Month: May 2017

Check It Out Blog

Books You Might Enjoy, Part Two

Does warmer weather make you thirsty for a new read? Whether looking to thrill your heart, excite your mind, lift your spirits, or escape to a different time or place, there’s a story for you — and we want to help you find it!  Below is a second set of hand-picked selections [part one is here] most likely to keep those pages turning during the hazy days of summer.

Picture of Jenny

Jenny says….

On the surface, recent releases Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig and The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman might not have a lot in common, however, both novels deftly balance talking about harder issues with light touches of humor and stunning grace.

Ginny Moon book cover

Meet Ginny Moon, a spunky, hilarious, and earnest 14-year-old girl who has everyone around her worried as she obsesses about the Baby Doll she left behind when she was saved from her birth mom five years ago. As Ginny shares her perspective as an adopted teenager with autism coming to terms with an abusive past, readers get to experience her joys and frustrations right along with her while she goes to extraordinary lengths to find her Baby Doll. Benjamin Ludwig will take you on a roller-coaster of emotion this summer with his debut Ginny Moon!

 

 

The Garden of Small Beginnings book cover

Filled with quirky characters, a chance of new love, and a strong family, The Garden of Small Beginnings is a ticket into a realistic slice of someone else’s life. It’s been almost five years since Lilli’s husband died and she was left to raise two young children with the help of her supportive sister. As Lilli and her family continue to work through their healing, a gardening class Lilli’s boss is making her sign up for holds an unexpected chance for a new beginning. For the reader looking for humor, heart, and healing, Abbi Waxman’s latest is a summer must.

 

 

Cathleen says….

He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly, expected in June, and New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, released last week, are two absorbing stories that turn dark motives into exciting storytelling.

He Said_She Said book cover

1999. In the afterglow of a total solar eclipse, Laura and her boyfriend Kit turn a corner to see what appears to be a violent assault. He said…it was consensual. She said…well, nothing out loud, but the look in her eyes tells Laura all she needs to know. The man is convicted because of Laura’s testimony, but sixteen years later it is Kit and Laura who live in hiding. With another eclipse expected, is this the time for harsh truths finally to be brought into the light? Find out in Erin Kelly’s debut He Said / She Said.

 

 

New Boy book cover

Transport the play Othello to an elementary school in 1970s Washington, D.C., and you have drama ripe for social commentary via sixth graders. In New Boy, a diplomat’s son is the first and only black student the school has ever enrolled. When he easily befriends popular girl Dee, it is too much for Ian, the class bully, who already feels threatened. The playground proves a ready-made setting for the jealousy and manipulation of Shakespeare’s classic, and you won’t want to miss how it ‘plays’ out.

Book Discussion Questions: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace book coverTitle: Ordinary Grace
Author:  William Kent Krueger
Page Count: 307 pages
Genre:  Mystery, Psychological fiction
Tone:  Melancholy, Nostalgic, Strong sense of place

Summary:
Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his 13th year, a man explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In Robert Kennedy’s eulogy to John F. Kennedy he used the phrase “Awful grace of God.” This phrase was used several times in this novel. What do you think is the meaning?

2. Do you believe as Aeschylus said, “He who learns must suffer”?

3. Why do you think Jake’s stutter permanently disappeared after he gave grace?

4. What does ordinary grace mean to you?

5. Who do you consider the main character in this book?

6. Without the war, what path do you think Nathan would have ended up taking career wise?

7. What do you think drew Jake and Lise together?

8. Do you think Emil was still in love with Ruth and vice-versa?

9. When the body of the itinerant was found Frank downplayed Jake’s presence and that upset Jake. However, when Emil Brandt tried to kill himself Frank tried to turn Jake into the hero and that really upset Jake. Why?

10. Why do you think the author never actually told us what happened in the war that changed Nathan so much?

11. Ruth did not seem to care for Gus very much in the beginning of the story, yet her attitude toward him seemed to change by the end. Why do you think that was?

12. Jake said he is afraid that his mom won’t come back. I mean she might come home, but she won’t come back (pg 260).  What did he mean by that?

13. When Frankie was accusing Emil Brandt of killing Ariel, Jake asked if it really matters who killed her. What did you think about that?

14. What did you think of Warren Redstone?  Why did he keep all those trinkets in his can?

15. Why do you think he was in jail?

16. Why didn’t Frank tell anyone about Warren’s connection to the dead man?

17. Jake said “There are somethings you can’t run from. You can’t run from who you are.  You can leave everything behind except who you are” (pg 265).  Is that true?

18. What did you think about how it ended? What happened to all of the characters?

19. On the first page, as Frank is talking about the events that were to happen, he says “You might think that I remember that summer as tragic and I do, but not completely.” After having finished the novel, what do you think of that statement?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Reading group guide provided by Simon and Schuster
Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
New York Journal of Books review
Q&A with William Kent Krueger
Interview with William Kent Krueger (video)

READALIKES:

Montana 1948 bok coverMontana 1948
by Larry Watson

setting free the kites book coverSetting Free the Kites
by Alex George

the homecoming of Samuel Lake book coverThe Homecoming of Samuel Lake
by Jenny Wingfeld

Books You Might Enjoy, Part One

Summer is on its way! To help you prepare for your reading-in-the-sunshine endeavors, we have dipped our toes in recent book releases, poured over top new release lists, and examined reviews just to land on stand-out titles that resonated with us that you would enjoy, too. We’ll be back next week for part two!

Cathleen says….

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, new this month, and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, released in April, are two very different reads that make lasting impressions.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine book coverWe love championing a debut, but I’ll be honest: this book pitch practically sells itself. A popular way to describe Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is as A Man Called Ove meets The Rosie Project, which right there tells you almost all you need to know. Eleanor is a prickly, solitary woman who (hilariously) speaks her mind and is just fine with avoiding all human interaction. When in a short time she meets a local musician, needs to call on her work’s IT guy, and helps an elderly gentleman who’s fallen, she finds herself being pulled into a world with other people. Take the time to get to know Eleanor. You’ll be very glad you did.

 

 

Borne book cover

“What did I just read?!?” This was my reaction to Jeff VanderMeer’s stupefying Southern Reach trilogy, so I thought I was prepared for his newest. Borne is something new altogether. We start with the discovery of a fist-sized purple blob caught in the fur of a gigantic flying bear our narrator is using to scavenge for biotech scraps, and it gets weirder from there. The plot may be impossible to summarize in a way that does it justice, but reviewers are comparing to Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood. Smart, literate, and mind-blowing, it’s quite a ride.

 

 

 

Picture of Jenny

Jenny says….

Try What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, released April 2017, and Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, releasing in June 2017.

 

What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky book cover
I am obsessed with this story collection right now. Arimah covers a lot of ground as she plays with different genres and explores what it means to be a girl, family dynamics, and the relationships people have with the world around them. With sentences like “[the Mathematicians are] …calculating and subtracting emotions, drawing them from living bodies like poison from a wound,” this short story collection is something to be savored. My favorites ended up being “Light”, “Redemption”, “Wild”, and the title story. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read them!

 

 

Do Not Become Alarmed book cover

The relaxing cruise trip cousins Liv and Nora have planned for their families takes a dark turn when their children go missing off of the coast of Central America leaving the parents to work out their feelings of guilt, fear and powerlessness. Best read under a hot sticky sun, Do Not Become Alarmed was something I finished in almost one sitting, as it begs you to keep turning the pages to figure out how everything can possibly end okay!

 

Book Discussion Questions: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night book coverTitle:  Our Souls at Night
Author:  Kent Haruf
Page Count: 179 pages
Genre:  Literary Fiction, Love Stories
Tone:  Reflective, Bittersweet, Moving

Summary:
In Holt, Colorado, widower Louis Waters is initially thrown when the widowed Addie Moore suggests that they spend time together, in bed, to stave off loneliness, but soon they are exchanging confidences and memories.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Imagine yourself a resident of Holt. If you discovered (or suspected) the evening visits, would you have an opinion? What if you were a member of the family?

2. The first sentences read, “And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters. It was an evening in May just before full dark.” In your opinion, how effective is this as a first line? What does it convey?

  1. 3. Is it significant that the proposal was at Addie’s instigation rather than Louis’s? How so? What would have been different in the story otherwise?

4. Does this proposal seem outrageous to you? Understandable? Was it brave?

5. Ruth says of Louis, “But he’s no saint. He’s caused his share of pain.” Did that surprise you at the time? Is it better for the story than Louis isn’t a saint?

6. The arrangement is a chance for these two individuals to revisit with each other what has happened in their pasts. What is the appeal of this? Which of those memories made the biggest impact on their relationship? On you as a reader?

7. How interesting is it for a reader to just listen in on characters’ conversations? Is it a talent of the author to make this interesting? Did you want something more to happen?

8. Do the characters think of this relationship as casual? At what point do you think the relationship became more for Addie? For Louis?

9. Was it inevitable that their relationship became sexual? Did you want it to? Were you surprised how deep into the story we were before it did?

10. We see strong instances of their children reproaching the parents about this arrangement. What did you think of that?

11. Gene could arguably be a villain in this story. What did you think of him? Was he at all justified in his concerns or actions?

12. How did the introduction of Jamie change their relationship? Of Bonny?

13. Contrast their interactions with Jamie to what we know of their relationships with their own children.

14. In one passage, Louis confesses:

I think I regret hurting Tamara more than I do hurting my wife. I failed my spirit or something. I missed some kind of call to be something more than a mediocre high school English teacher in a little dirt-blown town.

What does this tell us about Louis? Does it affect your view of him?

15. In what places of the story did you find humor?

16. Gene gives an ultimatum. Did Addie make the right choice? Is there a ‘right’ choice?

17. Later, Addie calls (again, her initiative) and wants to connect again. At first Louis balks, asking, “isn’t this the sneaking around we didn’t want to do?” What would you have done?

18. Did you want more from the ending? Why did Haruf make this choice?

19. A New York Times review asserts that Haruf’s “great subject was the struggle of decency against small-mindedness, and his rare gift was to make sheer decency a moving subject.” Do you see evidence of this struggle in Our Souls at Night? Again, putting yourself in the place of an observer/family, would you take any issue with the word ‘decency’?

20. This book was written as Haruf knew his time was limited. What did he want most to say? Should this be in our minds as we read? If you knew, did this affect your reading of the story?

21. When undertaking the project, Haruf told his wife Cathy, “I’m going to write a book about us.” What elements do you suspect were autobiographical?

22. Did you find the lack of quotation marks distracting? Why might the author make this choice?

23. Haruf’s style is almost always described as “spare” and his characters “plainspoken”. Are these qualities appealing to you?

24. Do you think his style and chosen setting may have held him back from wider recognition?

25. One writer commented that Our Souls at Night “engages sentiment without becoming sentimental”. What do you think about that statement?

26. Is this a sad or heavy book? How would you describe the feeling to someone else?

27. An upcoming film adaptation stars Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. How does that fit the characters in your mind? Are you interested in viewing the film?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Kent Haruf’s Last Novel is a Beautiful Gift” via The Oregonian
Final interview with Kent Haruf courtesy of Denver Center of Performing Arts
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review and analysis of Our Souls at Night
LitLovers discussion guide
Our Souls at Night competes in the Tournament of Books
Cathy Haruf on Her Husband’s Final Novel” via Knopf Doubleday

READALIKES:

To Be Sung Underwater book coverTo Be Sung Underwater
by Tom McNeal

Cover of Lila

Lila
by Marilynne Robinson

O Pioneers book coverO Pioneers!
by Willa Cather

Donna S’s Pick: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Picture of DonnaI suggest the 2017 Pulitzer winner for general nonfiction Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. The author lived in the depressed areas of Milwaukee to gather his research for the book. It highlights several families that struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Some are locked in their situations while others can break the cycle. A  home is so very important for a person’s sense of well being.

John’s Pick: The Young Girls of Rochefort

Picture of JohnPossibly one of the most gorgeous motion pictures ever made (and a major inspiration for La La Land), Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort takes the conventional musical off the studio set and envigorates it with colorful sunlit location shooting. Vibrant, occasionally silly, and about as charming a film as you’re ever likely to see, this picture seems to capture the very essence of springtime.