Check It Out Category: Fiction

Fiction: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Alledgedly book coverBy the time Mary B. Addison is sixteen she has been in jail for six years accused of killing a baby when she was nine, has been the main topic of multiple books, and is now living in a group home on her way of being reintroduced to some semblance of freedom.

However, everything may not be what it seems.

Tied to a past that only Mary knows the truth to, her efforts to look toward her future are mangled with stumbling blocks every which way.  Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson is a surprising bucket of cold water as Mary and the reader must grapple with all of the possible what ifs and should haves that come from a young girl growing up in an unstable home and the justice system.

Staff Pick: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dan from Building Services suggests A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Tale of Two Cities book coverCharles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities combines a colorful mixture of history, adventure, and romance set to the backdrop of the French Revolution. The story revolves around 3 characters: Lucie, a British girl of French descent, her lover Charles, a French nobleman seeking asylum from the bloody revolution, and their friend Sydney, a banker who harbors a secret love for Lucie.

Dickens summons up multiple emotions in the reader as Charles is forcefully extradited back to France in order to stand trial for his family’s crimes. This novel is sure to inspire wonder and horror as the author masterfully depicts this tale of love amidst one of the most unsettling times in French history.

Fiction: Beautiful by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Book CoverPippa, brokenhearted from her boyfriend having an affair, is on her way from London for a trip with her friends in America. Jensen is a serious and overworked businessman whose sister is trying to get him to relax. A chance encounter between the two mid-twenty-year-olds sets the tone for the beginning of a new adventure that turns both of their lives upside down.

In Beautiful, fans of Christina Lauren’s series and new readers alike will find a mix of steamy romance, self-discovery and humor along with all of the hi-jinks of friends vacationing together.

Book Discussion Questions: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train book coverTitle:  The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Page Count: 323 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Crime Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Tense, Disturbing

Summary:
Rachel sees the same couple breakfasting on their deck each morning as she passes by in her commuter train. She thinks their life looks perfect until, one day, she sees something shocking. The train moves on immediately, but she can’t keep it to herself and informs the police. Has she done more harm than good?

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. The Girl on the Train debuted as #1 on the NYT Bestseller Fiction List and has continued to break sales and library checkout records. In your opinion, what is it about this book that captured the interest of millions of readers worldwide?

2. Many complain that Rachel is unlikable. Do you agree? How important to your enjoyment of a book depends on whether you like a main character? Does your response differ if the difficult character is male or female?

3. Others maintain that relatability is more important than likability. Is Rachel relatable to you? Do you understand her choices? Do you care what happens to her?

4. Many psychological thrillers of recent years incorporate uncertain memory as a major factor. What is it about amnesia or compromised memory that works so well in these stories?

5. Do you react differently to Rachel’s memory issues because they are her own fault?

6. Would the story have worked without Rachel’s multiple personal issues: a ‘stable’ commuter who notices out the window, for instance?

7. It has been suggested that Rachel is symbolic of our voyeuristic tendencies – both as individuals and as a society. Is this fair?

8. What does Rachel gain from her involvement in the investigation? What does it cost her?

9. Was the choice to use multiple perspectives effective? One review complained that the lack of distinction confuses the reader. How would you respond?

10. Contrast the life Rachel imagined for Jess with what we learn of Megan’s reality. What else do we gain from Megan’s perspective?

11. Anna’s voice isn’t introduced until a third of the way into the book. Did it surprise you? Throw you off? How distinct is her voice?

12. Speaking of voice, why are only female characters chosen for point of view?

13. Are there characters (main or secondary) that you trusted or knew right away not to trust?

14. Did you ever believe Rachel had something to do with Megan’s disappearance? Did she?

15. Would this story play out the same in a US setting, or are the UK elements essential?

16. Hawkins has said that “the set-up is often the fun part” with scenarios and red herrings, but it is “a really hard thing to make that final act a convincing ending.” How’d she do?

17. What becomes of the surviving characters? What kinds of lives do they lead in future?

18. Would you characterize this as a cynical book? Is there any hope or positivity? Does that matter?

19. What, if anything, is Hawkins trying to say about marriage/relationships?

20. How are children or pregnancy (or barrenness) catalysts for much of the action? Is this intended to be cultural commentary?

21. The theme of self-sabotage is well explored through several characters. Is there any examination of recovery or redemption?

22. What did you think of Hawkins’ writing? Did you respond positively to her style, her prose, and/or her pacing?

23. Early in movie talks, Hawkins commented that she had no idea who should be cast as Rachel, as she’s specifically described as unattractive. The finished adaptation stars Emily Blunt, whom Hawkins publicly endorsed as excellent in the role. Does casting a beautiful woman change the tenor of the story?

24. Having “Girl” in the title has become shorthand to identify a specific type of psychological thriller. Is it problematic that a 32-year-old, divorced, hard-drinking woman is labelled this way? For contrast, consider the parallel The Boy on the Train. Why do you think this is so?

25. How would you characterize your experience of reading The Girl on the Train? Did you approach it as a whodunit? Would you describe it as a fun read?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paula Hawkins: By the Book via New York Times Book Review
Paula Hawkins: The Woman Behind The Girl on the Train via The Guardian
Interview on NPR: All Things Considered (audio or transcript)
BookPage feature on Paula Hawkins
LitLovers discussion guide
Three perspectives on the book’s settings: The Book Trail, shmoop, and a composite map
Hawkins’ next book, Into the Water, announced

READALIKES:

Pocket Wife book coverThe Pocket Wife
by Susan Crawford

Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes
by Sarah Pinborough

Suspect book coverSuspect
by Michael Robotham

Staff Pick: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Nancy from Administration suggests The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

One in a Million Boy book coverHe is a strange eleven-year-old, with an obsession for Guinness World Records. She is 104 years old, an immigrant from Lithuania, who does amazing card tricks. When the boy appears at the home of Ona Vitkus for a Boy Scout project, they become fast friends, and Ona finds herself sharing things that she’s never told anyone before. Soon, they’ve concocted a scheme to get Ona into the record books, as the Oldest Licensed Driver. However, the boy dies before they can achieve their goal.

Agreeing to continue her yardwork for a few more weeks, the boy’s father, Quinn, is also drawn into Ona’s quest for a world record. As a result, Quinn glimpses the son he never really knew. This is a lovely and amusing story of friendship, love, loss, and dreams pursued, especially enjoyable in audio.
 
 
For other thoughtful and touching stories of self-discovery, try one of these!

Ocean Apart book coverAn Ocean Apart
by Robin Pilcher
Britt Marie Was Here book coverBritt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman

 

Stiltsville book coverStiltsville
by Susanna Daniel
After You book coverAfter You
by Jojo Moyes

Rosie Thomas

Book Discussion Questions: Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

Small Blessings book coverTitle:  Small Blessings
Author:  Martha Woodroof
Page Count: 310 pages
Genre: Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Tone:  Heartwarming, Quirky, Thoughtful

Summary:
In an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year-old son he never knew he had, this comedy of manners reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.

 

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:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Woodroof said she chose to set Small Blessings in a college to create a bell jar atmosphere where people couldn’t avoid each other.  How does a small college in a small town help create that type of atmosphere?

2. How important were college students to this story?

3. How would you describe Tom’s life at the start of Small Blessings?

4. What things happen to dramatically change his life?

5. In light of all the coincidences that made Tom’s life better, do you consider this book to be realistic fiction?  Why or why not?

6. What words would you use to describe the tone or mood of the story?

7. Who was your favorite character?  Which character was the best well described?  Are they the same person?

8. How did Marjory Puttnam have a hand in getting Tom and Rose together? Do you think she was purposefully matchmaking?

9. Do you think Marjory killed herself?

10. Did Tom and Agnes do the right thing for themselves and Rose to stay with her all those years?

11. What if she had never died? Would it still have been the best choice to make?

12. In what ways are Tom and Agnes a good team?

13. A lot of the book depends on the premise that Rose was a magnetic pull for other people. Was it clear to you what made her so special to them?

14. Tom’s thoughts after Marjory’s death contain the quote from which the book title comes: “Talking to your mother-in-law might seem like small potatoes to people who luxuriated in more richly felt lives, but it had often been enough for him to build a bearable day on. Small blessings, as his mother had so often said…..” What are some of the little things that can make a day better?

15. How are small blessings different than big blessings?

16. If you had to go through life with just small or big blessings, which would you sacrifice?

17. Did Woodroof succeed in writing a book about small blessings?

18. A few days after Marjorie’s death, Rose invites Agnes to lunch.  During her lunch with Agnes, Rose realizes three things about herself:  That she hasn’t had the courage to explore her own heart, that she was lonely, and that she had kept people away with self-imposed separateness.

-Does it take courage to explore your own heart? How so?
-What does it mean to have self-imposed separateness?
-Why do you think Rose lived that way?
-Is it possible to admit to loneliness and not see life or one’s own self negatively?

19. Does Rose change from her realizations?

20. Russell has hidden the pain of his unhappy childhood and awkward childhood from everyone, including his AA sponsor.  Why do you think he kept this to himself?

21. Is there a line between being open about one’s pain and “airing dirty laundry”?  If so, what is the difference to you?

23. How would you describe Iris and Russell’s relationship?  Did you find their personalities very different or very similar?

24. Do you think Russell is capable of changing and will he do it?

25. Tom, Agnes, Russell, Rose and Iris all seem to experience some degree of loneliness.  What examples did you see in the story?

26. In light of these examples, what does Woodroof seem to be saying about loneliness? Is it fixed or changeable?  Is it caused by fault or does it just happen?

27. Rose’s mom, Mavis, tells her, “The worst thing you can do in life is turn away from it.”  What does this mean?  Do you agree?

28. Woodroof is open about being a recovering alcoholic herself. At the story’s end, Iris is beginning a difficult journey to recovery, Russell has relapsed, and we know that Serafina has died. Is this novel hopeful or discouraging about the chances for recovery from addiction?  What made it so to you?

29. There are several relationships in the book: Tom and Agnes, Tom and Rose, Rose and Henry, Henry with Tom and the friendship between Tom and Russell. Which one was your favorite?  Why?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Lit Lovers’ Reading Guide
Martha Woodroof’s website
10 Questions for Martha Woodroof (via booksonthetable.com)
Kirkus review of Small Blessings
Interview with Martha Woodroof (video)
Deep South Magazine: “‘Small Blessings’ with Martha Woodroof”

READALIKES:

Gilead book coverGilead
by Marilynne Robinson

Fiction: Twelve Days of Christmas Books

How do you choose your holiday comfort read? Some are drawn to covers with holly-decked cottages, snow-dusted couples, or anything in bright red or green. Others select by genre, familiarity of author, or tone. Anything is fair game to help you find the book that fits your mood! These authors are hoping that echoing a familiar carol in the title might tempt your interest for one or all twelve days of Christmas.

 

Twelve Days book coverTwelve Days 
Teresa Hill
Twelve Days of Christmas book coverTwelve Days of Christmas
Debbie Macomber

 

Three French Hens book coverThree French Hens
Lynsay Sands
Six Geese A-Slaying book coverSix Geese A-Slaying
Donna Andrews
Ten Lords A-Leaping book coverTen Lords A-Leaping
C.C. Benison

 

Twelve Days of Pleasure book coverTwelve Days of Pleasure
Deborah Fletcher Mello

Graphic Novel: Grandville Noël by Bryan Talbot

Grandville Noel book coverUnicorn cult leader pursued by Victorian badger detective and Pinkerton cowboy is hardly the recipe for a traditional holiday story, and that surprise is what makes Grandville Noël  irresistible. Creator Bryan Talbot plays with expectations in a Christmas installment of the steampunk Wind in the Willows-like Grandville series that can be thoroughly entertaining even to newcomers.

Interplay of sepia and color, along with an elegance of line, illuminates in bold detail both action scenes and quieter moments. You’ll be riveted by Scotland Yard Inspector LeBrock’s efforts to rescue a vulnerable young woman who has been dazzled by promises of acceptance and love, proving that the fantasy-allegory-mystery-thriller hybrid speaks to themes of the season after all.