The following films have been added to our collection during the month of February. MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated. If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG) Countdown (PG-13) Doctor Sleep (R) Ford v Ferrari (PG-13) Gemini Man (PG-13) Harriet (PG-13) I See You (R) Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (R) A Million Little Pieces (R) Motherless Brooklyn (R) Primal (R) Terminator: Dark Fate (R) Twenty One Bridges (R)
Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Ratings: The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book with a range between a 2.5 and 4.5. Additionally, one member gave the book a 2.0. The average of the ratings was 3.25.
The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 2.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.99.
Review: The facilitator told the members that the author has several degrees which assisted her in writing historical fiction. Chanel Cleeton has degrees in International Relations, Global Politics, and a Juris Doctor. In addition, Cleeton grew up in Miami, Florida. She is a second generation Cuban-American who learned to speak Spanish before she spoke English. Since childhood, she heard stories about Cuba. She participated in the Cuban traditions and frequently ate Cuban food.
Discussion Highlights: This novel created a lively discussion. The facilitator did not have to ask many questions. The discussion covered the following themes; hope and exile, family expectations, and sacrifice. The discussion included talking about the similarities and differences between Elisa & Marisol and Pablo & Luis. We discussed the parallels between life in modern Cuba and life in pre-revolutionary Cuba. We discussed the attraction between Elisa & Pablo and Marisol & Luis. We discussed whether or not Elisa and Pablo’s love was fueled by the urgency of the times.
One member had recently travelled to Cuba and shared photos of her journey. She shared her impressions of modern Cuba. The group thanked her for sharing!
Positive Comments: Members loved the author’s descriptions of the Cuban landscape and architecture. The facilitator told the members that Reese Witherspoon selected this novel for her book club, Hello Sunshine. Reese Witherspoon said she felt she took a vacation when she read this book. Many members enjoyed both the historical fiction portions and the romance portions of the novel.
Members enjoyed the heavily researched part of the book. Many members learned a lot about Cuba in 1958-59 and present day Cuba.
One member submitted a character list prior to the groups reading the novel and everyone was thankful for the list. A few members were very interested in what would happen next to several minor characters. They wished the author included this information, but understood the book would have been too long and too tidy. One member thought the author did a great job defining the characters considering the plethora of them.
Three members enjoyed Next Year in Havana so much; they read Cleeton’s next novel, When We Left Cuba. These three members enjoyed this second novel. This novel features Beatriz Perez, a character introduced in Next Year in Havana. Most members do not plan on recommending this novel to others and they will not be reading When We Left Cuba.
Members enjoyed the storyline and found it a painless way to learn about Cuban history.
The facilitator thought the author was insightful in the way she created the revolutionary character using a nuance approach.
Negative Comments: Several members thought the author included too many characters. Members found the plot very contrived, but understand this is a fictional novel and the author worked on creating a connection between the characters from both time-lines. Several members stated they did not like the romance part of the novels. The facilitator told the members that the author started as a romance writer and evolved her writing to include history and politics. The author has said that she will probably always include romance in her books, as romance is very much a part of life.
Regarding the historical elements of the novel, several members thought Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire did a better job of conveying life in Cuba under Fidel Castro. However, Waiting for Snow in Havana is a nonfiction book and therefore is probably more obligated to be accurate. Members agreed that Next Year in Havana covered a larger timeframe.
Facilitator’s Favorite Quote: “You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”—Chanel Cleeton
Resources: For books and audiobooks in our collection by Chanel Cleeton, please click here.
Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Ratings: The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book with a range between a 2.0 and 4.5. Additionally, one member gave the book a 0.5 and another member rated the book at 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.16.
The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 0.5 and 4.0. Additionally, one member gave the book a zero and another member rated the book at 5.0. The average of the ratings was 2.76.
Review: Alan Bradley was born in 1938 and learned to read at an early age. He worked as a radio and television engineer and later helped developed the broadcasting studio at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was director for twenty-five years. He took an early retirement and began writing short stories for literary magazines. In early 2007, he entered the Debut Dagger fiction competition and won. The fifteen submitted pages would become The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. This mystery is the first of ten, so far. Bradley was sixty-nine when The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was published. His story is so encouraging! It is never to late to work to complete our goals! And, it is never too late to write our stories!
Discussion Highlights: The groups discussed what Alan Bradley said in an interview, “I don’t think we trust children enough anymore or leave them alone enough…I recall being that age, and one of the greatest blessings was being left to myself. You find you own interests and amusements and pursue them.” We discussed whether kids today are given enough freedom and whether or not Flavia is given too much freedom.
We discussed the twists in the plot, our favorite scenes, and the most amusing dialogue.
Positive Comments: Some members enjoyed the witty dialogue and delightful descriptions. Some members loved the charming setting and interesting characters. Members did think the author wrote wonderful descriptions. Some members thought the writing should be tighter. Some members were reminded of their childhood and more innocent times in history.
The facilitator read the book over the holidays in a cozy chair at home sipping hot coffee. She laughed and smiled while reading the book as time delightfully slipped away. She found the book just what it claimed to be: a wonderful entertainment. The facilitator fondly remembered her childhood with long days spent bicycling, practicing slights of hand, playing in the forest and prairie, collecting nature samples, using a chemistry set and microscope, and plenty of time just to imagine. She thought the book was an exceptionally pleasant read!
Negative Comments: Many members thought the book was formulaic and totally unrealistic. With only twenty-five pages left, one member thought it wasn’t even worth the effort to finish. Members couldn’t swallow the premise that an eleven year old girl could have such freedom around town and access to chemical compounds. They thought that Flavia was too young to have such an understanding of chemistry and poisons. They said, “Who would let their eleven year old romp around the village with a potential killer on the loose.” Many members thought the story was boring; they did not want to leave more thought-provoking reads to read this dull story. Many members thought this book should be classified as a Young Adult/Teen read. Most members will not recommend this author to other people and they definitely won’t read another Flavia de Luce mystery.
Often when the ratings are so low the facilitator will justify the selection and tell the members why the book was selected.
In this case, members have requested entertaining, easy reads over the holidays.
Additionally, this book has received many awards such as; the Barry Award for Best First Novel (2010), the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel (2010), an Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2010), the Dilys Award (2010), the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2010), the Agatha Award for Best First Novel (2009), the CWA Debut Dagger (2007), and a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction & Mystery/Thriller (2009)
For books and audiobooks in our collection by Alan Bradley, please click here.
Penguin House Canada introduces Alan Bradley and his Flavia novels:
Listen to these interviews with Alan Bradley about how he created the delightful, spunky Flavia de Luce novels. He talks about how he came up with the creative titles and how his Flavia is a gift from the universe.
Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Ratings: The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.81.
The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a -1.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.13.
Review: Susan Orlean is known for her top-notch research skills and the ability to weave together disparate threads into an informative, interesting, narrative nonfiction book. She covered many topics in The Library Book; from the history of LA library system and its many departments, the building of the Central Library, the account of LA Central Library fire and the mystery surrounding the fire. Orlean also covered the concept of a book having a soul and how the burning of books destroys a culture’s very existence and history.
Discussion Highlights: The groups discussed the role of libraries throughout our lives. We discussed the various roles that libraries and books play in the health of a community. We discussed the history of libraries and the various departments. We discuss new ideas and initiatives for libraries of the future.
In chapter 5, Orlean writes that books “take on a kind of human vitality.” The groups attempted to answer the following question: What roles do books play in our lives and do we anthropomorphize them? We discussed wrestling with the idea of giving books away. Additionally, we discussed a fire’s impact on a culture and its ideas.
Positive Comments: Many members loved the book and they have already recommended it to friends. Some members enjoyed the structure of the book and felt like the author created interest by weaving together threads of each storyline throughout the book. Members who liked the book found it educational and informative. They commend the author for her tremendous research.
The facilitator thought of the book as a great tribute to the good work libraries do each day. Susan Orlean says, “All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.” “This is why I wanted to write this book, to tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine, and houw that feels marvelous and execeptional.”
“It <the library> declares that all these stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past and to what is still to come.”
Negative Comments: Facilitator Preface: Some members enjoy nonfiction books, but most members like fiction books better and rarely read nonfiction books.
Many members disliked that author went back and forth in time. They felt this led to a disconnected read and it made the reading more difficult. Many members like stories told in a linear fashion. They felt the story was choppy due to the back and forth structure.
All the members are strong advocates for libraries and love libraries. They were disappointed that they did not love the book because they want to promote libraries. They had high hopes for the book. They did not care about the LA Library and many thought if they story was about Chicago they might have been more engaged. Many members said the story just didn’t grab them. They didn’t care about solving the arson or about Harry Peak. They didn’t like the pace or the structure. Members thought the book was too comprehensive and the author tried to cover too many people. One member said if she had to take a quiz on the book, she would flunk.
For books and audiobooks in our collection by Susan Orlean, please click here.
Listen to the dynamic interviews below to discover how Susan Orlean came to write The Library Book.
Susan Orlean kicks off her tour with an interview with David Ulin at the LA Central Library.
For photos of the Central Library, please take a look at the Central Library website. The Art and Architecture of the Central Library is magnificent.
The following films have been added to our collection during the month of January. MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated. If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.
In the Aisles (German)(NR) Indian Horse (NR) Joker (R) The Lighthouse (R) Official Secrets (R) The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith (PG-13) Pain and Glory (Spanish)(R) Parasite (Korean)(R) Zombieland: Double Tap (R)
Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Ratings: The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 3.0 and 4.5. The average of the ratings was 3.86.
The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 1.5 and 4.0. The average of the ratings was 3.47.
Review: Sujata Massey’s novel is one in which many subgenres overlap. The Widows of Malabar Hill combines a traditional mystery with domestic fiction, historical fiction, and legal thriller. The main character, Perveen Mistry, was inspired by Cornelia Sorabji, the first female graduate of Bombay University, the first woman to study law at Oxford University, and the first woman to practice law in India. She was disturbed by the lack of legal representation for purdahnashins, women who were forbidden to interact with the outside male world. Cornelia Sorabji drew attention to the injustices these women faced when their husbands died—this issue drives the plot of The Widows of Malabar Hill.
The Widows of Malabar Hill moves back and forth between 1916 and 1921. In 1916, Perveen Mistry falls in love and marries Cyrus Sodawalla. Due to customs at the time, she leaves her home in Bombay and moves in with her husband’s family in Calcutta. Perveen and Cyrus are Parsi, or Persian, whose descendants were followers of the Zoroastrian religion. In her in-law’s home, Perveen is forced to stay in an 8 x 12 foot cell once a month during binamazi.
The author writes a compelling mystery that offers rich cultural insights.
Positive Comments: Most members knew very little about purdah, binamazi traditions, and the Parsi culture before reading this mystery. Members really enjoy gaining knowledge and insight about cultures and religions different than their own. The facilitator commented that readers were spoon-fed a lot of historical information in an interesting way—it is always exciting to learn new things without having to work hard to digest information. Members appreciated the research the author executed in the novel. Many members enjoyed the rich details and loved hearing about the food. They were excited when the facilitator showed them Massey’s website which includes recipes from the book.
A few members really liked the book and plan to read her next books. Some members and the facilitator thought the structure of the book was ideal to tell Perveen’s story and help the reader understand what created this compassionate woman. The back and forth structure also creates interest. Members respected Perveen and her father; they appreciated their relationship. The contextual clues are so spot on, the reader does not generally need to look at the glossary provided. Most members agreed that they gained insight into a culture and its rich history.
Negative Comments: Many members thought the beginning was challenging. The complete title of the book is The Widows of Malabar Hill: A Mystery of 1920’s Bombay, so readers were expecting a mystery to unfold right away and when it didn’t they were disappointed. Members did not like that the author moved back and forth from 1916 to 1921 and they felt the glossary did not help with any terminology. Many members had difficulty with the names and one member renamed all the characters to read the book.
Further Discussion: The group discussed the religious differences between the two families of the same faith. We discussed the difference between modern and orthodox religiosity.
For books and audiobooks in our collection by Sujata Massey, please click here.
See the interviews below to discover how Sujata Massey became interested in the story.
Please visit Sujata Massey’s website to learn more about Cornelia Sorabji, the historical figure who was the inspiration for the Perveen Mistry character. Additionally, Sujata Massey’s website contains photos from real places in the book and Indian recipes.
Reader’s Advisory would like to wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season.
The Library will be closed on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24th, and Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25th, as well as New Year’s Eve, Tuesday, December 31st, and New Year’s Day, Wednesday, January 1st.
We will be taking a short break from blogging over the holidays, but please join us again in the New Year!
The following films have been added to our collection during the month of December. MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated. If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.
Angel Has Fallen (R) Blinded by the Light (PG-13) The Chaperone (TV-14) Cold War (Polish)(R) Don’t Let Go (R) Downton Abbey: The Movie (PG) The Goldfinch (R) Hustlers (R) The Iron Orchard (R) It Chapter Two (R) Judy (PG-13) Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (R) Overcomer (PG) Papi Chulo (R) Rambo: Last Blood (R) Where’d You Go, Bernadette (PG-13)
The following films have been added to our collection during the month of November. MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated. If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.
After the Wedding (PG-13) American Woman (R) Amityville, Mt. Misery Road (NR) Anna (R) Annabelle Comes Home (R) The Art of Racing in the Rain (PG) Batman Hush (PG-13) Brian Banks (PG-13) Crawl (R) Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For (TV-G) The Dead Don’t Die (R) Deadwood: The Movie (TV-MA) The Farewell (PG) 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (PG-13) Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13) The Kitchen (R) Luce (R) Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (PG-13) Midsommar (R) Ophelia (PG-13) The Peanut Butter Falcon (PG-13) The Professor and the Madman (NR) Red Joan (R) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13) Spider in the Web (NR) Stuber (R) The Tomorrow Man (PG-13) We Have Always Lived in the Castle (NR) Wild Rose (R)