Month: September 2017

Check It Out Blog

Movies and TV: If You Like Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies DVD coverMaybe you were already a fan of the blockbuster novel by Liane Moriarty. Maybe you became swept up in the combination of critical acclaim and breakroom buzz when the TV adaptation first aired. Or maybe the eight Emmy wins, including for acting, directing, casting, music, and the top prize of Outstanding Limited Series broke down your defenses. One way or another, you’re now a fan.

Whether you have already binged the pitch-perfect Big Little Lies or are waiting patiently for your turn, you may be interested in related shows that offer variations on those same delicious appeals.

Top of the Lake DVD cover

Top of the Lake

Description: Obsessed with the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl near a freezing lake in New Zealand, a brave detective finds herself up against small-town secrets and a side of herself that was meticulously kept at bay.

Why This? Atmosphere! Both limited series lean in to the twisted and the dark beneath the surface. With complex, fascinating female characters, dynamic performances, and the exposure of sinister secrets in an insular town, you will be riveted.

Pretty Little Liars DVD cover

Pretty Little Liars

Description: Four friends band together against an anonymous foe who threatens to reveal their darkest secrets.

Why This? The similar title words are not the only reason this series is one of the most frequently mentioned watchalikes for Big Little Lies. Though the protagonists are younger and the machinations perhaps a bit soapier, the intrigue and drama inspire an equally obsessive viewing, especially as dangerous secrets threaten to come to light.

Broadchurch DVD cover

Broadchurch

Description: Two strong yet compassionate detectives are brought together to solve the murder of an eleven year-old boy in a small coastal town.

Why This? Season one of this celebrated series ticks all the boxes: seaside setting, murder mystery, almost-too-close community, and rich layers of storytelling. As the increasingly twisted evidence is followed, the prejudices, grudges, and underbelly of the idyllic town become exposed with dire consequences. You might also watch for the magnificent performances, especially that of Olivia Colman, who is more than equal to the standouts of Big Little Lies.

Little ChildrenLittle Children DVD cover

Description: The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Massachusetts.

Why This? This 2007 film is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, an author credited as a master of suburban noir. That means you can expect secrets behind closed doors of a seemingly benign neighborhood. Also, if you were interested in the parent roles of Big Little Lies, you will find parallels including the larger question of who might be misbehaving like little children, regardless of actual age.

RevengeRevenge DVD cover

Description: Wealth, beauty, and power define the residents of New York’s most exclusive community, but one woman will stop at nothing to exact revenge from those who ruined her father’s life.

Why This? The central character is presented as a newcomer to a wealthy beachside community. Not only does she navigate making new friends and learning whom she can trust, but she is also dealing with the aftershocks of a pivotal event in her past. Ring any bells? This is another series option for those who like shows that won’t let you go once you start.

Book Discussion Questions: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Title: The Girls of Atomic City
Author: Denise Kiernan
Page Count: 309 pages
Genre: World War II Nonfiction, History
Tone: Informative, Atmospheric

Summary:
The story of several women who worked in various positions at the Clinton Engineering Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II to secretly make fuel for the atomic bomb.

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. Chapter one opens with women riding on a “train to nowhere”. What were some of the things made these women open to doing this? How hard was it on people to leave? Was it harder for some than others? What about those who had families?

2. How did secrecy affect the community at Oak Ridge?

3. How did privacy affect the community at Oak Ridge? How did the residents feel about the fact that anyone could be watching them or listening to them at any time? Was this different than the broader United States at that time?

4. How did the earlier residents of this area feel about their land being taken from them to use for this project (“the taking.”) How did this follow some of the other “land taking” they’d experienced, like the Great Smoky National Park and the Norris Dam? Did patriotism and the war effort affect this? If so, in what ways?

5. How were African Americans treated differently than the white Americans in Oak Ridge? How do you feel about this? (Hutment: 16’x16’ plywood box with a door and a shutter, heated by a potbellied stove, housing 4 women, for $6.50/person/month with no spouses. Whites had dorms for 2 people at $10/person/month. Also trailers, houses, etc where couples and families could live.) What other ways were African Americans discriminated against? Did they sacrifice more?

6. This was an untold story of WWII that the author has brought to light. The part women have played in history has often been overlooked. Why are these important to tell even years later? Have you read other books or seen movies that have told their stories? (Hidden Figures) Why do you think the book is called “The Girls of Atomic City” not women?

7. Before reading this book had you heard of some of the notable female scientists who worked with atomic physics? Have their contributions been given the same weight that males in that discipline have?

8. Lise Meitner played a large part in discovering atomic fission, but when she realized the application of this discovery she decided not to join the Manhattan Project? How do you feel about that?

9. Read these quotes from Albert Einstein and discuss how you feel about them?

He wrote to physicist Niels Bohr in December 1944, “when the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.”
Einstein withheld public comment on the atomic bombing of Japan until a year afterward. A short article on the front page of the New York Times contained his view: “Prof. Albert Einstein… said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate.” (“Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb”, New York Times, 8/19/46, pg. 1). Einstein later wrote, “I have always condemned the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.”
In November 1954, five months before his death, Einstein summarized his feelings about his role in the creation of the atomic bomb: “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” (http://www.doug-long.com/einstein.htm)

10. Do you think it was acceptable to hire people to work on this project without them knowing what it was that they were helping to make? Who do you think risked exposure to radiation? Any people stand out? (Those who carried the canisters to Los Alamos. Ebb Cade’s experimentation.) How did the statement, everything’s going in, nothings coming out play into this?

11. Talk about the “ordinary” people who worked on the bomb. Who stood out to you and why? What were their jobs? Who did you empathize with? Who were the “extraordinary” people involved in the project? What were their jobs? Did you feel you got to know them?

12. Talk about the physical characteristics of Oak Ridge? Why was it selected for Site X? How did the environmental conditions affect the residents of the town?

13. How did people try to bring a sense of normalcy to the structured and secretive life at Oak Ridge? Why do you think some were successful in adapting to Oak Ridge while others were not?

14. Was Kiernan successful in transporting you to the world of World War II? Why or why not? What things gave you that sense of time or the era? How did you feel about the way in which the book moved from the stories of the “ordinary people” to the stories about the scientists, generals and politicians involved in the highest level of the project?

15. How much did you know about The Manhattan Project before reading this book? Did you learn anything interesting about it you didn’t know before. (One example for me is just this past summer I saw the headquarters of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, and I knew it was a private, all-male club, but I didn’t know it was involved with the Manhattan Project.)

16. How did WWI and WWII differ from previous wars and subsequent wars the US has been involved in? Are wars unifying or divisive for a country?

17. What did most Americans at that time feel about the war and the use of the atomic bombs? Has our thinking about this changed with time? Why or why not? What have been the ramifications of the atomic bomb and atomic energy, both positive and negative? Let’s talk about how the bombs were used. How were the targets chosen? What were the outcomes? How did the US try to lessen casualties? Hiroshima – August 6, 140,000 killed. Three days later Nagasaki – 40,000 killed. Five days later Japan surrendered.

18. There was a real sense that Americans trusted their government and military leaders and would follow them in this period of time. How is our world different today? Is something this huge, involving so many people, over so long a period of time, with such secrecy possible today? Is that a negative or a positive?

19. How many of you liked this book? How many disliked it? Reasons for or against? Would you have liked this better as a movie?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

The Girls of Atomic City website
PBS feature “Women on a Top- Secret Mission in ‘Atomic City'”
Simon and Schuster Discussion Questions
The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History from the U.S. Department of Energy

READALIKES:

Our Mothers’ War
by Emily Yellin

Rise of the Rocket Girls
by Nathalia Holt

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly

Fiction: Never Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe

Never Been Kissed book coverNever Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe is a steamy story of temptation. Ashley Montgomery’s plans to volunteer at a refugee camp in Africa are interrupted when she is captured by Somali pirates. Luckily for her, her family’s old bodyguard Brody Baxter comes to her rescue. To protect Ashley from the press and her family, they hole up in a small apartment above Brody’s brothers bar where Ashley learns Brody is in need of some rescuing too.

While your adventures will most likely be a lot different than Ashley Montgomery’s, you can help change someone’s life through volunteering! Come out to the Mount Prospect Public Library Volunteer Expo on September 23, 2017 to see a variety of volunteer opportunities available to you in or near Mount Prospect.

List: Our Staff’s Favorite Graphic Novels

Whether you are an avid reader of graphic novels or want to try one out for the first time, look no further than this post for a list of 15 of our library staff’s very favorite titles! This eclectic mix offers fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, steampunk, humor and the avant-garde. It is sure to provide more than a few gems for your reading pleasure.

For those of you just starting out with graphic novels, here are four good places to start:

Persepolis book coverBoth Denise T. and Carol M. suggest Persepolis, the graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Carol says, “I remember watching the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but Marjane Satrapi’s story gave me the perspective of someone about my own age who lived through it. The graphic novel format was an inspired way to show how society changed after the Islamic Republic came to power.”

Donna S. recommends the conclusion of U.S. representative John Lewis’s true story of his personal experience of the civil rights movement. Donna says, “I found March Book Three an interesting reminder of the early civil rights movement in America. This is a National Book Award winner.”

Donna C. recommends the YA title, Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino, which uses Thoreau’s own writings to tell the story of his time experimenting with living an unconventional life in the woods. Donna says, “This is a lovely and very accessible way to approach both the writing of Thoreau and the graphic novel medium, for teens and adults alike.”

Anne S. recommends The Gettysburg Address by Jonathan Hennessey. “Hennessey uses text and pictures to illustrate the complexities and beauty in the Gettysburg Address while also giving a clear and concise overview of the driving forces which helped to develop the United States during its first 150 years. P.S. It’s also a great graphic novel for the person who ‘does not read’ graphic novels!”

If you’re looking for something further off the beaten path, try one of these staff suggestions:

Cathleen B. recommends Descender, Book 1, by Jeff Lemire, the sci-fi story of a robot boy whose life is in jeopardy in a universe where androids are forbidden. Cathleen says, “This series start is inventive and suspenseful and sad and sweet, but the gorgeous watercolor art is what truly won my heart.”

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is a metaphysical tale of mythology and history, following the mistaken capture and imprisonment of Dream, who controls the dream world. Janine S. recommends this, saying, “It’s smart, emotional, and relevant with some of the greatest and most interesting characters I’ve encountered in all of my reading.”

Kelda G. suggests Stitches by David Small. “A best-selling and highly regarded children’s book illustrator comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute―a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.”

Joe C. recommends yet another science fiction story, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. This is a story about a world in which only two males exist, Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Joe says, “It is a brilliant and clever alternate history premise: what would happen if all the men died?”

 

Mary S. suggests Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Anderson. “A very funny portrayal of the everyday occurrences that plague us.”

 

 

Chelsea L. says, “My more recent favorite graphic novel is The Flintstones by Mark Russell. It is remodeled for the 21st century, hysterically funny, and grown-up version of the quirky Flintstones and their town of Bedrock.”

Anthony A. suggests Blankets by Craig Thompson. “At once powerful and tender, this beautifully rendered autobiographical coming-of-age epic graphic novel grapples with the intense emotional transformation of a young man experiencing first love, disillusionment, spiritual awakening, and the growing realization and acceptance of all the things that are beyond his control.”

 

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke is the suggestion of Jenny M. “While there were moments where I could see myself so vividly in Radtke’s memoir and it felt strange to see pieces of me on someone else’s page, this was also an impressionable exercise in peeking into seeing how someone else comprehends and makes sense of life.”

 

Mary D. suggests Grandville by Bryan Talbot, saying, “Grandville is a steampunk, Victorian noir, suspenseful graphic novel full of anthropomorphic characters and beautifully drawn artwork.”

 

Claire B.’s favorite is Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. Claire says, “I thought this book was beautifully illustrated and a thorough, fascinating explanation of what happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.”

 

David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp follows a middle-aged teacher and architect who relocates from New York City to Midwestern small town. John M. recommends it “because of the elegant way form mirrors theme throughout.”

Book Discussion Questions: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians book coverTitle:  Crazy Rich Asians
Author:  Kevin Kwan
Page Count: 527 pages
Genre:  Satire, Mainstream Fiction
Tone:  Humorous, High Drama, Witty

Summary:
Envisioning a summer vacation in the humble Singapore home of a boy she hopes to marry, Chinese American Rachel Chu is unexpectedly introduced to a rich and scheming clan that strongly opposes their son’s relationship with an American girl.

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. What are your thoughts on the title? Did you read it as “Crazy-Rich Asians” or as “Crazy, Rich Asians”?

2. There is an article entitled “A Whole New Wave of Stereotypes”, which discusses the way this book turns some old Asian stereotypes upside down. How do you react to the idea of this book stereotyping?

3. In the Prologue, Reginald Ormsby – GM of a posh London hotel – wouldn’t let Eleanor, Felicity, Alexandra and their families stay at the hotel. What did you think of this opening? This happened in the 80’s; were you surprised by racial implications?

4. What did you think of the characters in this book? Who was your favorite? Who drove you crazy?

5. Were you able to relate to any of the characters? The families? Why or why not?

6. Were you aware of the wealth in Asia before reading this book?

7. As Part Two begins there is a quote from Marco Polo “I did not tell half of what I saw, for no one would have believed me”. Kevin Kwan said in an interview that his editor had him “remove certain parts of Crazy Rich Asians because they were too unbelievable, even though they were grounded in reality”. What did you think of the descriptions of mega wealth in this book?

8. Given the opportunity would you want to live the super rich life style? Do you think it could be stressful?

9. What do you think of the “old money” versus the “new money” divide in this book?

10. Nicholas didn’t feel his money would change his relationship when Rachel found out. What are your thoughts?

11. What do you think of the role women play in this book?

12. Sophie told Rachel, “No matter how advanced we’ve become, there’s still tremendous pressure for girls to get married. Here, it doesn’t matter how successful a woman is professionally. She isn’t considered complete until she is married and has children”. What do you think of this statement and do you think it would ring true in the United States?

13. Do you think any couple in this book has a “good” marriage? Are the relationships different than the average marriage?

14. Rachel goes with Araminta’s friends to her super exclusive bachelorette party, but she does not seem to be accepted by the group. Why do you think that is?

15. What relationship do you think these women have with each other?

16. Was there anything from the bachelorette party that you were fascinated with?

17. What did you think about Colin’s bachelor party?

18. Both Nick and Astrid offered to leave their family for their respective partners. What do you think about this? Can family ever be left behind completely?

19. What did you think about the disclosure of Rachel’s father?

20. How would you characterize Astrid’s friendship with Charlie Wu?

21. Do you think Nick and Rachel get married? Should they?

22. In chapter 16, Dr. Gu, said that Rachel is “a fortunate girl, then, if she marries into this clan”. What do you think about that statement?

23. What did you think about Singapore? Were you curious to learn more?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Kevin Kwan
Entertainment Weekly interview with Kevin Kwan
LitLovers discussion guide
Kevin Kwan: Americans Will Embrace ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Movie” via The Washington Post
Singapore’s Multimillionaires: New Wealth Report Busts the Myths” via Forbes
Crazy Rich Asians Presents A Whole New Wave of Asian Stereotypes” via The Guardian

READALIKES:

Rich Kids of Instagram book coverRich Kids of Instagram
by Maya Sloan

Great Gatsby book coverThe Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nanny Diaries book coverThe Nanny Diaries
by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Donna S’s Pick: Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

Picture of DonnaBenedict owns a gem stone shop in England. His life is quite complacent; business is slow and he is estranged from his wife and brother. Everything changes when Gemma, his niece from America, arrives on his doorstep. As the story progresses, there are frequent references to gem stones, their meanings and how they influence the story, such as how rose quartz means love, peace and appreciation. Try Rise & Shine Benedict Stone by Paedra Patrick for a charming, uplifting story.

Fiction: Comfort Reads

We wouldn’t be readers if we didn’t find respite in our books. Though stories may be opened in the hope of thrills, experiences, or discoveries, often a well-chosen book is claimed as a port in the storm of tough times. The next time your spirit hungers for cozy and reassuring, try (or revisit) one of these comfort reads:

I Capture the Castle book coverI Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
Story of a bright 17 year old girl living in semi-poverty in an old English castle, told through her journal entries. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”– and the heart of the reader– in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.
Little Prince book coverThe Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara Desert encounters a little prince from a small planet who relates his adventures in seeking the secret of what is important in life.
Cranford book coverCranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell
A comic portrait of early Victorian life in a country town which describes with poignant wit the uneventful lives of its lady-like inhabitants, offering an ironic commentary on the separate spheres and diverse experiences of men and women.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull book coverJonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
More concerned with the dynamics of his flight than with gathering food, Jonathan is scorned by the other seagulls in this story perfect for those who follow their hearts and who make their own rules.
Princess Bride book coverThe Princess Bride
by William Goldman
A classic swashbuckling romance retells the tale of a drunken swordsman and a gentle giant who come to the aid of Westley, a handsome farm boy, and Buttercup, a princess in dire need of rescue from the evil schemers surrounding her.
Pride and Prejudice book coverPride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Human foibles and early nineteenth-century manners are satirized in this romantic tale of English country family life as Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters are encouraged to marry well in order to keep the Bennet estate in their family.

 

At Home in Mitford book coverAt Home in Mitford
by Jan Karon
Longing for change in the face of burnout, Episcopal rector Father Tim finds his lonely bachelor existence enriched by a stray dog, a lonely boy, and a pretty neighbor.
the Hobbit book coverThe Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie book coverThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, begins her adventure when a dead bird is found on the doorstep of her family’s mansion in the summer of 1950, thus propelling her into a mystery that involves an investigation into a man’s murder where her father is the main suspect.