Check It Out Category: Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Audiobook: Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin

Dangerous Women Playaway coverDanger can be alluring, frightening, and exciting all at once, and you won’t find a better illustration than in Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Whether your taste runs to female desperadoes, Scottish highlanders, warrior queens, femmes fatales, or modern magicians, you will be wowed by a carnival of choices offered by the best fan favorite writers of today. Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Lev Grossman, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughn, and Brandon Sanderson are among the standout contributors, and fans of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series won’t want to miss the creator’s featured novella “The Princess and the Queen”. Intensify your thrills by listening to Dangerous Women in Playaway format, an easy-to-use portable player that holds an entire audiobook. Skip to the stories and narrators that tempt you most, but don’t be surprised if you devour them all.

Curious about Playaway and what the format has to offer?  Join us for Playaway Day on Saturday, February 1, 1-4 p.m., for giveaways and more information.

Book Discussion Questions: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 book coverSPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Page Count: 849
Genre: Alternate History
Tone: Nostalgic, Compelling, Gritty

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What was the purpose of the Norman Mailer epigraph? Do you think it stated Stephen King’s personal politics?

2. Al Templeton, the owner of Al’s Diner, told Jake of a door that led back in time to 1958. He then showed Jake the door and told him to see for himself. Jake went through the door. Would you have? Why or why not?

3. It isn’t enough to step back in time, Al wants to change a watershed moment – he wants to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Do you think this was a good idea or a bad idea?

4. What is the butterfly effect? Taking in consideration the positive and negative possibilities of the butterfly effect in regard to the JFK assassination, would you have gone back in the portal to change history?

5. Did Al corner Jake into going back in time? Did Jake have time to think about if he should act on the time portal?

6. If you had gone back in time from 1958 – 1963…what events would you have wanted to witness?

7. When Al and Jake both walk through the portal, the Yellow Card Man greets them. Who is he? Why is the Yellow Card Man there? What does the color of his card represent?

8. When people step through the portal are they going to the past they know or to something else?

9. Why does the Yellow Card Man/Green Card Man say it is bad to go through portals?

10. Early on, Jake said of Derry, “there was something wrong with that town, and I think I knew it from the first.” (p. 121) Jake says it was a town that kept secrets (p. 149) Can an entire town be “wrong”? How does a town keep secrets?

11. Stephen King has a tendency to subtly (or not) connect his novels and stories. Did anyone notice any settings or characters that were references from other works by Stephen King?

12. Were you surprised by how long it took for Jake/George to truly start tracking Lee Harvey Oswald? Why did it take him so long? How did Jake kill time in the past?

13. When did 11/22/63 start to grab you? Did it ever lose you?

14. Were there any moments that shocked you?

15. Why did Jake want to save the Dunning family from slaughter? Was it personal? How did it relate to him then saving the President?

16. Was Harry Dunning’s sister grateful that Jake saved her family from slaughter (the first time)? (p. 240)

17. Jakes usually paints the past as better – better prices, nicer people, even the root beer tasted fuller. Are there ever any instances Jake points out to show how the past is not better than the present? (Ex: race issues, women’s equality, pollution, medical technology)

18. Jake/George falls in love with Sadie. Was this a good idea? Would you have allowed yourself to do this?

19. How does Jake’s mission to stop JFK’s assassination interfere with his relationship? (pg. 408)

20. How do Jake and Sadie get back together? (p. 523)

21. Jake/George invites Sadie to the future (p.620). How did Sadie answer? How would you have answered if you were her? If you were Jake, would you have offered?

22. What is Sadie’s reaction to learning that Jake was attempting to save President Kennedy from assassination?

23. Do you think people today would still react as strongly to a United States president being assassinated as they did when Kennedy was shot? Why or why not?

24. What was your first impression of Lee Harvey Oswald? Did your view of him ever change?

25. As Jake spies on Oswald, he is witness to Oswald beating his wife. Does he ever step in to help her? Why or why not? What would you have done?

26. Jake states that the past is obdurate. Give some examples of the past not wanting to change.

27. Was there a reason for the past not wanting to change?

28. Jake is constantly seeing parallels of people and settings on his quest. What are some examples of parallels or connections he sees? (Ex: The bookies were alike, the pharmacists were alike, Sadie was a Dunning, etc.)

29. Why did Jake hold back from Sadie that he was regaining his memory? Was this a good idea?

30. Did Jake end up saving the president? Did he do it alone or with help?

31. What happened to Sadie?

32. What happened to Oswald?

33. Would you describe Jake as a hero? How would you describe him?

34. Did saving Kennedy make Jake’s original world a better place?

35. Who alerted Jake to the history of the future that he created? (Harry Dunning)

36. Why were there so many earthquakes?

37. Does Jake end up ever getting to see Sadie again?

38. Did you read Stephen King’s afterword? What did you think of the opinions you found there? Are you going to read any of the books he mentioned on the Kennedy conspiracy?

39. Have you read other books by Stephen King? Is this the kind of book you expected out of the author? Will you read more by him?

40. Are there any events that you would be tempted to go back in time to change?

Other Resources

11/22/63 website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Tom Perotta interviews Stephen King
Errol Morris interviews Stephen King
Lee Harvey Oswald’s boarding house
Texas Book Depository
JFK Library facts on assassination

If you liked 11/22/63, try…

Underworld by Don DeLillo
Fatherland by Robert Harris
The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

Underworld book cover     Fatherland book coverthe Third Bullet book cover

Book Discussion Questions: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go book cover

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

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Page Count: 288
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone: Complex, suspenseful, thoughtful

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    In one interview, Ishiguro observes that in many reviews of Never Let Me Go, the words “strange” or “sinister” keep coming up. Do these words reflect your experience with the book? What other words would you use?

2.    Ishiguro, on the other hand, claims he thinks of this as his “most cheerful book.” Why do you think that is?

Ishiguro: “In the past, I had written about characters’ failings…With NLMG I felt that for the first time I had given myself permission to focus on the positive aspects of human beings. OK, they might be flawed. They might be prone to the usual human emotions like jealousy and pettiness and so on. But I wanted to show three people who were essentially decent. When they finally realize their time is limited, I wanted them…to care most about each other and setting things right. So for me, it was saying positive things about human beings against the rather bleak fact of our mortality.” (The Paris Review)

3.    At what point in the story did you realize the full meaning of “donor” and “complete”?

4.    One of the most common criticisms of the story is that the students never take action to change their fate. Did this bother you? How do you respond to the author’s explanation of his choice:

“It’s something I do instinctively in my writing,” says Ishiguro “and with this book it was a very important feature that escape was not an option. It’s about how we’re all aware of our fate, in that we have a limited time in life. Escape isn’t an issue in the book, because it’s never really an option in our own lives. Characters like Stevens and the kids in Never Let Me Go do what we all do; try to give meaning to our lives by fulfilling some sort of duty.”

5.    Kathy’s narration is a key to the novel’s disquieting effect. Was the choice of Kathy’s perspective a wise one? How would the novel be different if narrated from Tommy’s point of view, or Ruth’s, or even Miss Emily’s?

6.    What are some of Ruth’s most striking character traits? How might her social behavior, at Hailsham and later at the Cottages, be explained? Why does she seek her “possible” so earnestly?

7.    Art is a recurring motif throughout Never Let Me Go. In which scenes is art a topic? What is the importance to the students as children? As adults? To the story’s themes?

8.    Speaking of love, what is the importance of the myth of deferral – both to the students and to the narrative? As you read, did you have hope that this was a real possibility for them?

9.    Why do you think there was so much attention given to sexual urges and relationships? Is it simply because the story focuses on adolescents and young adults, or is there another explanation?

10.    How is the students’ inability to have children significant?

11.    What is the significance of the title?

12.    What were your reactions to the meeting with Miss Emily and Madame?

13.    Is it surprising that Miss Emily admits feeling revulsion for the children at Hailsham?

14.    What is the book saying about childhood? Think about this, too, in the context of Miss Lucy, who wanted to make the children more aware of the future that awaited them. In contrast, Miss Emily claims they were able to give them something precious – “we gave you your childhoods” (p. 268).  In the context of the story as a whole, is this a valid argument?

15.    One the distinguishing features of Ishiguro’s novels is his prose style. How would you characterize his writing? How did you respond to it?

16.    If you have seen the recent movie adaptation, what impressed you? What disappointed you? Which did you find more poignant?

17.    Did this novel surprise you? Would you be open to reading another like it? Are there similar books you might suggest?

Other Resources:

Abe Books discussion questions
Lit Lovers discussion questions
Kazuo Ishiguro interviewed by Allan Gregg
Book review by The Guardian
Book review by The New York Times
Ethics of cloning Wikipedia page
Trailer for movie adaptation

If you liked Never Let Me Go, try…

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Beyond Black by Hillary Mantel
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Oryx and Crake book cover     Beyond Black book coverthe Leftovers book cover