Check It Out Category: Fiction

MPPL Staff Favorites 2019

Staff Favorites 2019 cover photo

The end of the year is an irresistible time to reflect on all the fabulous art each of us read, watched, played, and listened to in 2019, and many of our staff wanted to celebrate those high points together. Narrowing down to only three favorites each has not been easy, but this grand finale has given us lots to debate — and we hope it offers the same to you!

Picture of JennyFiction: What We Owe
by Golnaz Hashemzadah Bonde
Music: Amidst the Chaos
by Sara Bareilles
Audiobook: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
by Hank Green
Picture of MaryGraphic Novel: New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Fiction: Ninth House
by Leigh Bardugo
Audiobook: On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas
picture of AngelaNonfiction: The Sun Is a Compass
by Caroline Van Hemert
Fiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Nonfiction: Just Mercy
by Bryan Stevenson

 

Picture of MichaelFiction: The House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Movie: The Last Suit
Fiction: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
by Anissa Grey
Picture of BrianVideogame: Shadows Die Twice
Fiction: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Videogame: Hollow Knight
icon for MichelleAudiobook: Recursion
by Blake Crouch
Fiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction: Daisy Jones & the Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

Picture of CaitlinMovie: It: Chapter Two
Book: Angel Mage
by Garth Nix
Music: E-mo-tion
by Carly Rae Jepsen
Audiobook: With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Nonfiction: Born to Fly
by Steve Sheinken
Graphic Memoir: They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei
Picture of JenniferFiction: Since She Went Away
by David Bell
Fiction: The Girl Who Was Taken
by Charlie Donlea
Nonfiction: The Feather Thief
by Kirk Wallace Johnson

 

icon for DevinFiction: Queen of Air and Darkness
by Cassandra Clare
Nonfiction: The Woman Who Smashed Codes
by Jason Fagone
Poetry: Love Her Wild
by Atticus
Picture of AnneFiction: Beartown
by Fredrik Backman
Fiction: Who Slays the Wicked
by C.S. Harris
Nonfiction: The Pioneers
by David McCullough
by K.A. Holt
Nonfiction: The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander
Audiobook: The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

Picture of Denise
Audiobook: Get A Life, Chloe Brown
by Talia Hibbert
Audiobook: Internment
by Samira Ahmed
Movie: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Picture of JanineFiction: The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
Graphic Memoir: Good Talk
by Mira Jacob
Fiction: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton
Picture of EvaNonfiction: Life Undercover
by Amaryllis Fox
Fiction: Redemption
by David Baldacci
Fiction: All the Beautiful Girls
by Elizabeth J. Church

 

Picture of BeccaTV: Stranger Things
Graphic Memoir: Kid Gloves
by Lucy Knisley
Fiction: Song for a Whale
by Lynne Kelly
icon for KellyFiction: The Flatshare
by Beth O’Leary
Fiction: Would Like to Meet
by Rachel Winters
Fiction: No Judgments
by Meg Cabot
Audiobook: Daisy Jones & the Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Audiobook: The Beastie Boys Book
by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz
Fiction: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michelle Richardson

 

picture of CatherineFiction: After the Flood
by Kassandra Montag
Music: Dedicated
by Carly Rae Jepsen
Fiction: Get A Life, Chloe Brown
by Talia Hibbert
Audiobook: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow
Fiction: A Kind of Freedom
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Fiction: Lovely War
by Julie Berry
icon for Anne WNonfiction: Our Women on the Ground
by Zahra Hankir
Nonfiction: Visualizing the Beatles
by John Pring and Rob Thomas
Nonfiction: Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal
by Yuval Taylor

 

Picture of DonnaAudiobook: Whiskey in a Teacup
by Reese Witherspoon
Fiction: The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes
Fiction: The Paris Orphan
by Natasha Lester
Icon for RebecaFiction: On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas
Fiction: My So-Called Bollywood Life
by Nisha Sharma
Nonfiction: A Dream Called Home
by Reyna Grande
Picture of CathleenFiction: The Memory Police
by Yoko Ogawa
TV: Succession
Poetry: Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50
by Lee Ann Roripaugh

 

Al staff photoPoetry: 1919:  Poems
by Eve L. Ewing
Fiction: Friday Black: Stories
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Fiction: The Need
by Helen Phillips
picture of AndreaAudiobook: Nothing To See Here
by Kevin Wilson
Fiction: Fireborne
by Rosaria Munda
Audiobook: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

 


Want more? Take a look at what staff chose in 2018 and 2017 as their favorites.

 If you’re interested in personalized reading, watching, and/or listening suggestions… Ask!

Exciting New Fiction Series to Discover

If you are looking for a new story world to explore and love the guarantee of multiple volumes ready-and-waiting, try one of these recent additions to the MPPL fiction collections:

Black Prism book coverLightbringer Series by Brent Weeks (5 books)

epic fantasy
for fans of George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss
*recent New York Times bestseller*

Start with The Black Prism
When Gavin Guile–high priest and emperor, the most powerful man in the world known to all as the Prism–discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

 

 

Truth or Beard book coverWinston Brothers series by Penny Reid (7 books)

contemporary romance
for fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson
*Goodreads Choice finalist*

Start with Truth or Beard
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain. But when she realizes that Duane is interested in her, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

 

Rosewater book coverWormwood Trilogy by Tade Thompson

science fiction; Afrofuturism
for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and James S.A. Corey

Start with Rosewater
Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers. Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

 

Sita book coverRam Chandra series by Amish (3 books)

historical fantasy; mythological fiction
for fans of Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson

Start with Scion of Ikshvaku
3400 BCE. India. A terrible war has taken its toll. The demon King of Lanka, Raavan, does not impose his rule on the defeated. He, instead, imposes his trade. The Sapt Sindhu people descend into poverty. They cry for a leader to lead them out of the morass. Little do they appreciate that a leader, a tortured and ostracized prince, is among them.

Book Discussion Questions: The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

The Obituary Writer book coverTitle:  The Obituary Writer
Author:  Ann Hood
Page Count:  292 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Reflective, Melancholy, Character-driven

Summary:
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The surprising connection between these two women will change Claire’s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways.

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:  2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The book is entitled THE OBITUARY WRITER, which might imply this is primarily Vivien’s story. Is that intentional? Is it true?

2. What was Vivien’s approach to writing obituaries?

• What is appealing about this?
• Were you surprised we weren’t shown any of the obituaries she wrote?
• How does her role in helping family members to find peace with loss contrast to her own situation?
• When was this difficult for her, and did this make sense to you?
• Would you want someone like Vivien to write your story? Why?

3. In an interview Hood references the challenge of using alternating point of views, “that the reader has to reach the end of each section wanting to stay in that time and place every time…I needed the reader to not want to leave Vivien when her section ended, then not want to leave Claire. Every time.”

• In your opinion, was she successful?
• Were you equally invested in Claire’s and Vivien’s stories?

4. Were there other characters you were interested to see make additional appearances? Lotte? Kay Pendleton (librarian)? Sebastian? What did each add to the overall narrative?

5. What about the male characters in general?

• What roles did they play in the story?
• Is there messaging that can be read into how they were depicted, either individually or collectively?
• Would you have been interested in learning more about any?

6. How is the topic of infidelity portrayed in the book?

7. Did you suspect that David might indeed be alive? Were you disappointed to learn he was not?

8. The novel is bookended with news of Dougie Daniels.

• What happened in the beginning of the book? What impact did that have on Claire?
• When and how does his story re-enter the narrative near the end? What were the ramifications there?

9. In your opinion, do Claire and Vivien bear responsibility for the lives they have? Do you think they own their choices or blame circumstances? Do they take responsibility for the consequences? Should they?

10. In 2002, author Ann Hood lost her 5-year-old daughter unexpectedly to a virulent form of strep throat, an experience she later shared in Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (2008). In what ways might this insight illuminate events or characters in The Obituary Writer (2013)?

11. What difference does it make to different characters that the baby Claire loses was Peter’s? How might the story have been different if it weren’t?

12. Did you guess the connection between the stories of Claire and Vivien?

• At what point did you suspect and/or become certain?
• In what ways did the revelation cause you to reflect back on the character of Birdy (or, for that matter, Vivien)?
• Was this an earned ‘twist’ or did it feel at all contrived?

13. Did Vivien have a hopeful/happy ending to her story? Do you think Claire will?

14. What significance, if any, might there be in the names chosen for the characters? An analysis of story tropes points out interpretations of Vivien, Sebastian, and David.  Are these stretches, or do you see validity?  Any others?

15. In a letter from the author included in the Reading Group Guide, Hood explains how the premise for this novel came about. She’d been in the midst of writing what was intended to be a short story about a young wife during the Kennedy era who was questioning her role as a woman during that time. She talks of always associating the Kennedy inauguration with hopefulness, but then she was confronted with details of a long previous April and the tragedy of the San Francisco earthquake. “I wondered what would happen if I told two stories: one about the hope of January 21, 1961, and the other about the grief of April 18, 1906. In that moment, THE OBITUARY WRITER was born.”

• How might this ‘origin story’ be surprising?
• Do you think the effect of juxtaposing these two stories was what the author intended?

16. Why do you think so much of modern writing/publishing, especially in the realm of what might be termed ‘women’s fiction’, uses the structure of dual storylines set in different eras, often in which two seemingly separate characters must be connected somehow?

• What’s the appeal?
• Do you enjoy reading stories told in this way?
• Are there any downsides?

17. The publisher describes THE OBITUARY WRITER as part literary mystery, part love story. How well does the story fit that depiction?

18. Is this a story you will remember? What do you think will stay with you?

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 Obituary Writer’ by Ann Hood joins 2 Lives in Grief and Hope” via The Washington Post
interview with Bookish: “Ann Hood: The Obituary Writer
Ann Hood Talks about The Obituary Writer, Yarn Bombing, Writing, and So Much More
Reading Group Guides book review
LitLovers discussion guide
story tropes in The Obituary Writer
13 Secrets of Obituary Writers” via Mental Floss
documentary DVD: Obit: An Inside Look at Life on the New York Times Obituaries Desk

READALIKES:

The Perfume Collector book coverThe Perfume Collector
by Kathleen Tessaro

The Address book coverThe Address
by Fiona Davis

Book Discussion Questions: The Paris Architect

Tthe paris architect book coveritle: The Paris Architect
Author: Charles Belfoure
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Suspenseful

Summary: A Parisian architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazi-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent towards, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

 

 

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: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. The story begins with Lucien Bernard rounding a corner at the Rue La Boetie and a man almost collides with him. The man is almost immediately shot down by the German soldiers.  What did you think of Lucien’s reaction to this and did it set a tone for his character?
  2. 2. Lucien is an out of work architect, desperate for work. He meets with Auguste Manet who asks him to build a hiding space for a Jewish man being hunted by the Gestapo.  Let’s talk about this interaction.
  3. 3. What did you think about Celeste and Lucien’s relationship?
  4. 4. Collaboration was a very sensitive topic for the French. Let’s talk about this
  5. 5. Let’s talk about Adele, Lucien’s mistress.
  6. 6. “The Occupation hadn’t just bred hatred of Jews; it had brought out the very worst in human beings, neighbor against neighbor and even friend against friend. People would screw over each other for a lump of butter”.  Let’s discuss.
  7. 7. It was dangerous to hide Jewish people. What did you think of anyone hiding a Jewish person? Would you?
  8. 8. What did you think about Celeste’s reaction when Lucien admitted that he had saved two Jewish people?
  9. 9. Let’s talk about some of the German characters, did any stand out? If so why?
  10. 10. Most WW2 fiction, including this book, seems to portray most Germans in a less than pleasant light. What do you think of this?
  11. 11. The book is a series of vignettes describing the plight of Jewish people that were hiding. Did any of the stories particularly strike you?
  12. 12. Did you imagine yourself in any of the situations the Jewish people found themselves in? What would you have done if Captain Bruckner lined up the people in your neighborhood or you were forced to hide under a set of stairs?
  13. 13. We meet Adele’s right-hand “man”, Bette Tullard. Let’s talk about her.
  14. 14. Why do you think it was so important to Schlegel to find any hidden Jews?
  15. 15. Let’s talk about Father Jacques, the priest that took in Pierre.
  16. 16. Lucien ended up loving Pierre like a son. Why do you think Lucien took Pierre in?
  17. 17. Pierre realizes that there is something “off” about Alain and follows him. Let’s talk about this chapter.
  18. 18. Lucien’s attitude about helping Jewish people has an abrupt change, let’s talk about this
  19. 19. Lucien is approached by the Resistance. What is/was your opinion of France’s Resistance?
  20. 20. “The Resistance does its best under extremely difficult conditions.  But we must fight back.  To live defeated is to die every day”.  Do you agree, or do you think it is better to choose your battles?  Which side do you believe you would end up in, Resistance or Collaborator?
  21. 21. What did you think of Lucien helping the Resistance to sacrifice his factory?
  22. 22. Let’s talk about the ending.
  23. 23. “When all this Madness if over, I hope we meet again,” said Lucien to Herzog. Do you think they will?  If so, what do you think would happen if they did meet after the war?
  24. 24. Did you have a favorite character?
  25. 25. Do you think history could repeat itself in today’s world?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

New York Journal of Books The Paris Architect: A Novel
Reading Group Guides Guide to The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure’s Official Website
Lit Lovers Guide to The Paris Architect

READALIKES:

Sarah's Key book coverSarah’s Key
by Tatiana de Rosnay

Schindler's List book coverSchindler’s List
by Thomas Keneally

by Monica Hesse

Books: If You Are a Fan of Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, was the basis for the wildly popular HBO series, Game of Thrones, now airing in its final season. If you just cannot get enough of either the TV series or the book series (or both!), explore these engaging readalikes that offer adventures in similar realms.
 
 

The Ruin of Kings book coverThe Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Large cast of characters, World-building, Epic fantasy

When destiny calls, there’s no fighting back. Kihrin grew up in the slums of Quur, a thief and a minstrel’s son raised on tales of long-lost princes and magnificent quests. When he is claimed against his will as the missing son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds himself at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless power plays and political ambitions.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Malice book coverMalice by John Gwynne
Epic fantasy, Large cast of characters, World-building

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, but now giants are seen, the stones weep blood and giant wyrms are stirring. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. For if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust … and it can never be made whole again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Emperor's Blades book coverThe Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
Epic fantasy, Court intrigue, World-building, Large cast of characters

The children of an assassinated emperor try to stay alive and avenge their father’s death while continuing down their individual life-paths, one in a monastery, another training with elite soldiers, and one appointed a minister determined to prove herself to her people.

 

 

 

 

 

Epic fantasy, World-building, Large cast of characters
A wholly seductive tale of war, passion, and intrigue, evoking the spirit of medieval Japan. It is the story of a boy who is suddenly plucked from his life in a remote and peaceful village to find himself a pawn in a political scheme filled with treacherous warlords, rivalry and the intensity of first love.

 

 

 

 

 

Prince of Thorns book coverPrince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Epic fantasy, World-building, Court drama, Violent
After witnessing the murder of his mother and brother and leading a band of bloodthirsty thugs, Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath returns to his father’s castle and his birthright, but faces treachery and dark magic once he arrives.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mists of Avalon book coverThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Strong female, World-building, Dramatic, Mystical
The tumult and adventures of Camelot’s court seen through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king’s rise and schemed for his fall. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur’s kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory.