Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – September 2018

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Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 3.0 and 4.0 with one member giving the book a 1.5. The average of the ratings was 3.61.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 2.5 and 4.0, with one member giving the book a 1.5. The average of the ratings was 2.91.

Review:
Members enjoyed the premise of the book.  They liked the idea of reading about a book club which allows members to communicate, grow, and change.  They liked that book clubs have the potential to support and uplift others and form friendship.  Members thought Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups are much more engaging than the club portrayed in the novel. Members really, really enjoy our sessions!

The novel as a whole did not receive the marks that other novels discussed at book club have received.  Several members have recommended this book to others as a “nice read.” Several members were not impressed with the author’s writing ability.  Many members didn’t care about any of the characters—this is a tell-tale sign of dislike for these book discussion groups.  The groups really enjoy stories when they care deeply about the characters. Members felt there were too many dysfunctional people in the book.  Some members had great expectations for the book and were highly disappointed.

Several members disliked the book and found the characters poorly developed, shallow, and flat.  They found the structure too loose and the writing seemed padded.  They felt the book needed more editing.  The facilitator shared with the groups that Ann Hood’s original submission was twice as long as the published novel.  The groups laughed as they definitely would not read her 720 page novel and they still agreed that the novel needed more editing.

A few members were conflicted about the book. They felt the main character, Ava, whined throughout the book and they were sick of her attitude. Members disliked the chapters which showed Ava’s daughter’s addiction to drugs. They felt those were too graphic. The facilitator noted in Ann Hood’s interview, her editor actually cut large portions of the addiction scenes out the book.  The editor told Ann Hood that the public wouldn’t be able to handle it. One member felt the addiction segments were accurately portrayed until the ending—she felt if Ann Hood truly understood drug addiction, Ava’s daughter Maggie would not be on the mend at the end of the novel.

Members had much to say about the ending.  Many thought the ending was too contrived and abrupt.  Members thought the author got tired of writing and wrapped all her characters up in the last five pages. They found the ending lacking and disappointing.  Members could not understand how a mother could fake her own death while her child was young, only to show up when her daughter was an adult. The mother and daughter did not have any kind of severe reaction to this trauma—this scenario did not ring true in any way to real life, so it felt contrived.  Members thought the ending seemed like a Hollywood ending which did not match the tone of the rest of the book.

The novel addressed the power of book clubs:
On page 356, “Ava looked around at these people {the book club} who had brought her into this group, who had watched her struggle and try and fail and, finally, stand here with them, more confident.  Even, she realized, hopeful.  She imagined the year ahead, watching movies at Kiki’s and bringing in snacks one night and helping Diana through radiation after her surgery.  She imagined books, dozens of them, piling up on her shelves, growing dog-eared and worn, read and reread, highlighted and scribbled on.  She imagined books and this book group getting her though whatever was coming next.”

Members liked that in tandem with the PBS series The Great American Read, we discussed our personal favorite reads.  This was a heartwarming and touching portion of the discussion group.  We extended our meeting time for an additional hour to cover this portion of the meeting.  The facilitator is compiling the list of books for each member to keep. Members felt this was the best part of the discussion.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The members discussed Ava’s reasons for joining a book club and the discussion centered on members’ own reasons for joining book club.  Members enjoy having deeper discussions about the books they read.  Club is a safe place to explore ideas, change, and grow.  Often other members bring new insights and thoughts to the selection. Members enjoy developing relationships with other book lovers. Members also find that prior to joining a book club; they would read basically similar types of books.  They wanted to join book club to expand their reading tastes and read books they would not pick out on their own.
  • We discussed Ava’s book club journey coupled with her emotional journey, which is a coming-of-age story.  Ava initially “couldn’t remember the last book she’d read that mattered at all.  In fact, she purposely chose books that didn’t matter to her.” Ava, as a child, got lost in books, but after the death of her sister and mother, Ava ignored books. We discussed how the death of her mother influenced her and her own parenting.
  • The theme for Ava’s book club is the book that matters most.  Over a ten month period, each book club member is asked to pick the book that is most significant to them.  We discussed the lessons Ava and the other members learn from each book selected.
  • We discussed how Ava is transformed as she reads and discusses each book.  Ann Hood, the author, had the book club premise in mind and decided to select 10 books that the club would read.  Ann Hood did research by asking everyone she encountered, what the most important book was to them.  Ann Hood had a large notebook to compile the list, but what she found is that the same 24 books repeated themselves.  Based on the plot, she selected 9 books from the list of 24 and reread the books for The Book That Matters Most.
    • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is selected by Penny Frost, Radcliffe ’47.The facilitator spent a decent amount of time explaining possible ways the main character, Ava is transformed by reading each book presented at book club.  Below are short summaries of the facilitator’s main points:The book deals with courtship and marriage—issues Ava doesn’t want to read about since she is recently divorced and this topic is hurtful.  Ava decides not to read the book, but supplements by watching the movie.  At book club, Ava is embarrassed because she is caught cheating and to fit in with the members, she states she is bringing the author of her book selection, From Clare to Here (a fictional book) to the meeting.
    • Luke selects The Great Gatsby as his favorite book as it had given him the courage to hope beyond his own circumstances. Ava is transformed by this selection in that she realizes that the American dream is an illusion, so she opens up to John about her divorce and John assures her that there are many types of grief.
    • Diana, a breast cancer survivor and local actress, selects Anna Karenina which deals with adultery and the restrictions of society on women. Ava is currently dealing with her husband who committed adultery and Ava is impressed with the thought that we “fool ourselves into believing that we are happy.” This resonates with Ava and she begins to wonder why she has tricked herself.
    • Ruth, mother of the year with six children, selects One Hundred Years of Solitude (meant to be ironic). When Ava reads this book at the beach, the words rush over her mind and the solitude of reading is creating a place for the suppressed memories of Ava’s past to come forward.
    • Honor, previous babysitter for Ava, now working as English literature professor, selected To Kill a Mockingbird as she wrote her dissertation on Atticus Finch. She feels that Finch is a perfect example of a moral compass in that, he never loses faith in human kind. Ann Hood uses this novel to show the readers that Ava and daughter, Maggie, are like Scout (character in To Kill a Mockingbird) in that, they are also going through a transformation.  The readers realize that The Book That Matters Most is a coming-of-age story.  Ava begins to confront the memories she had before the death of her mother and sister.
    • Monique, Ava’s school friend, selects A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A tree is chopped down in this novel, but there is still a living branch, which is symbolic of hope.  Ava at this point in the novel is in need of hope for her daughter, Maggie.
    • Kiki, a counter girl, who Ava thinks is inept, selects the coming-of-age story, Catcher in the Rye. Holden (character from Catcher in the Rye) is angry at the phoniness in the world, which made Kiki think about the anger she felt when her parents divorced. This discussion at book club makes Ava think about her daughter who first started having issues when she and her husband were having marital difficulties.
    • Jennifer selects The Unbearable Lightness of Being which deals with the dichotomy of light vs. heavy and paradoxes that cannot be resolved. At this point, Ava is reminded of the paradox in her own life—how could her own mother leave her—this is the main issue Ava has been working through most of her life which is why the fictional book From Clare to Here is so meaningful.  Ava is becoming more independent and stronger; she realizes that even though her husband would like to get back together, she does not have to make this choice.
    • John, a recent widower, selects Slaughterhouse 5 because it is how he met his wife in college. She helped him with a Slaughterhouse 5 college assignment and they were together from that day until her death.  In Slaughterhouse 5, the main character Billy is unstuck in time and every moment of time is occurring and reoccurring simultaneously in his life.  This is how Ava feels; she is now fully evolved and realizes that she is not a victim and she tells her daughter that, “the choices we make are own.”
    • Ava chooses the fictional book From Clara to Here, which Ava discovers is a book her mother wrote in an attempt to explain why she left Ava as a young girl.

Many members thought Ann Hood’s use of great literature throughout the book was too simplistic and shallow.  One member stated, “I read the novel, as it was written, with little insight into the great works of fiction and in that way, the books were just a part of the story.  They were not meant to be symbolic or deep.”

Resources:
Listen as Ann Hood discusses her novel The Book That Matters Most:

Visit Ann Hood’s website to learn about her
and her other fantastic novels.

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Ann Hood, please click here.

Read-a-Likes:

The Book That Matters Most

As a tie-in to the PBS program The Great American Read and the novel The Book That Matters Most, members were asked to bring 1-3 most beloved book titles to the September club meeting. Members discussed their favorite books. Titles only will be shared at a later date. The Great American Read concluded with the Grand Finale on October 23, 2018 revealing To Kill A Mockingbird as the best-loved book.

 https://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/3017588458/

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From the Reference Desk, reader's advisory

From the Reference Desk

Please enjoy some romantic reviews…

lauren reviews

Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues to be delightful. The second book, A Duke By Default, follows the adventures of Portia Hobbs, best friend of Ledi (who starred in A Princess In Theory) as she leaves behind New York and continues her quest to build a life free from her past mistakes. The book kicks off with sass and assertiveness, and it rollicks merrily along towards the end with all the ups, downs, and loop-de-loops of a roller coaster. Bonus: not only do we get Portia’s point of view, we also get Tavish’s. If you like second-chance romances, smart, capable characters aware of their flaws, and contemporary romance that not only riffs off the tropes but emphasizes the obligation of those in power to serve the people, read these. Also, Tavish’s family is multi-cultural and fabulous, and the author has so many delightfully geeky jokes in the book. (Book 3 is slated to star Ledi’s cousin Nya and the prince who comes to help Tavish deal with being a duke. All signs point to another good story on its way…and hopefully more books after that, because there are multiple other major supporting characters I’d love to read as main characters.)

26067984

I Thee Wed by Celeste Bradley is a historical romance. However, we get a heroine who is not the only woman with a degree in her family (historically accurate), an antagonist with sadly realistic villainy, and a hero who yearns for orderly quiet only to find that he misses the chaos of his family and needs to use a social script to function in most situations. Between science, bewildering feelings (neither main character is initially pleased by the disruption of attraction), and Orion’s youngest sister Atalanta, who is a force to be reckoned with and equally at odds with society’s expectations as her brother, there’s always something happening. Plenty of drama, yes, but in the end there’s happiness to spare.

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – October 2018

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of October.
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.

Adrift (PG-13)
Back to Burgundy (French)(PG-13)
Billionaire Boys Club (R)
Breaking In (PG-13)
The Catcher Was a Spy (R)
Damsel (R)
Darrow & Darrow: In the Key of Murder (NR)
Distorted (R)
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (R)
The Endless (NR)
Fahrenheit 451 (TV-MA)
The First Purge (R)
Flint (TV-14)
Hereditary (R)
Hotel Artemis (R)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (PG-13)
A Kid Like Jake (R)
Leave No Trace (PG)
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG-13)
Manifesto (NR)
Occupation (R)
Ocean’s Collection (including Ocean’s 8, 11, 12, & 13)(PG-13)
On Chesil Beach (R)
Operation Red Sea (Chinese)(R)
The Seagull (PG-13)
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (R)
Skyscraper (PG-13)
Sollers Point (R)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)
Sweet Country (R)
Superfly (2018)(R)
Super Troopers 2 (R)
Tag (R)
The 12th Man (Norwegian)(PG-13)
Unfriended: Dark Web (R)
Uncle Drew (PG-13)
Warning Shot (R)

Updated 10/29/18