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.)

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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.

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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)
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)
Fahrenheit 451 (TV-MA)
The First Purge (R)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (PG-13)
Leave No Trace (PG)
Manifesto (NR)
Occupation (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)
Tag (R)
Unfriended: Dark Web (R)
Warning Shot (R)

Updated 10/15/18

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs for September 2018

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

Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13)
Bleeding Steel (English and Chinese)(R)
Book Club (PG-13)
The Child in Time (TV-14)
Deadpool 2 (R)
Love at First Bark (NR)
Nostalgia (R)
The Party (R)
Paterno (TV-MA)
Sheikh Jackson (Arabic)(NR)
Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery (TV-G)
Song of Granite (NR)
Truth or Dare (PG-13)

 

updated 9/17/18

Book Club, reader's advisory

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

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Morning Book Break and Book Discussion Groups on
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 4.0 and 4.5 with one member giving the book a 3.5 and another member rating the book at 3.75. The average of the ratings was 4.13.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0, with one member giving the book a 3.0 and one member giving the book a 3.5. The average of the ratings was 4.10.

Review:
Most members found the novel to be well-written and enlightening.  Members liked learning about Germany in the aftermath of World War II.  Members felt the book shed light on how difficult it is to rebuild after a war. Many members gained new insights into the complexities of life that many ordinary Germans experienced.  Members somewhat sympathized with decisions made by ordinary Germans living in dangerous, unsettling times. The groups discussed how difficult it is to make decisions without prior knowledge of consequences farther down the road.  Members enjoyed Shattuck’s ability to make the reader really care about these flawed women. One member thought that she had her mind made up about the three women, only to change her opinion at the end—the member gives Shattuck credit for creating well-drawn characters.

Many members liked the novel more than they thought they would.  They enjoyed learning new information about life for ordinary Germans during this period of time and they thought the author did an excellent job of painting humanity with a gray brush.

Several members found the structure of the novel confusing.  They found it hard to keep track of the characters and the time-line.  The story is not told in a linear format—the author moves around in time with the characters.  The facilitator felt Jessica Shattuck did a wonderful job with the format—she created a nonlinear novel that grabs the reader’s attention.  Several members did however, like that the book had a beginning, middle, and end.

Additionally, several members were confused by the novel’s geographical shifts; they found this difficult to track—this could have been mitigated by having access to the map included in Jessica Shattuck’s website—they wish the map had been included in the book.  

Some members found it difficult to understand how Ania obtained a new identity. This was only covered in a cursory way in one paragraph on page 269 (paperback version).

Several members were unable to finish the book; the novel brought back too many difficult memories and horrors of the war.  These members bravely attended book discussion and still brought their experiences and insights which were helpful and inspiring.

According to Jessica Shattuck the novel is as much about “complicity as it is about resistance.  It is a story set at the edges of the Holocaust, rather than at its darkest center—in the gray area of everyday lives.  It is also a book about the period after the war rather than the war itself, a time when guilt of having supported Hitler—of having been complicit in the Holocaust—was driven underground and inward.  And this private space of the subconscious and repressed has always been the province of novels.”

Jessica Shattuck attempted to answer the following questions from three characters’ points of view: “How did the forces of the time shape the everyday moments of people’s lives?  How much did “ordinary Germans” know of what was happening in concentration camps and small Polish villages?  How did some people recognize evil as it unfolded while others remained blind?”   Members believe Shattuck answered these questions through the three characters’ circumstances and choices—which was a remarkable feat. Members thought Jessica Shattuck achieved her goal by offering readers a different glimpse at life for Germans from 1938-1991.

The book posits the following questions: What would I do in similar circumstances?  How do I stand up for injustices today? After reading The Women in the Castle, the answers are not as black and white as one might think.

Members have read other novels about Nazi Germany which they felt had insights, like The Lilac Girls, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Sarah’s Key.  In contrast, members felt The Women in the Castle offered new insights that these other novels did not.  In other words, The Women in the Castle covered new ground.  Only one member had read a nonfiction book which addressed this period of time in a similar way.  The member highly recommended this book, Two Lives: A Memoir by Vikram Seth. “Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest living writers, Vikram Seth — author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy — tells the heartrending true story of a friendship, a marriage, and a century. Weaving together the strands of two extraordinary lives — Shanti Behari Seth, an immigrant from India who came to Berlin to study in the 1930s, and Helga Gerda Caro, the young German Jewish woman he befriended and later married — Two Lives is both a history of a violent era seen through the eyes of two survivors and an intimate, unforgettable portrait of a complex, abiding love.”—from Amazon

Discussion Highlights:

  • The groups discussed ways they related to the three main characters and discussed which character they identified with the most.  Members talked about how each woman’s past influenced their decisions during the rise of Nazi Germany. We discussed whether the women would have been friends if not for the war and how the events of the war shaped each of the women and their perceptions of themselves.  
  • The groups discussed whether Marianne was a good protector and friend to Benita and Ania. We discussed how Marianne may have reacted if Ania and Benita had been more honest with her.
  • The groups discussed whether Benita’s beauty helped or hurt her and we discussed her true feelings for both Connie and Franz Muller.  We discussed Benita’s final choice and the implications for her son, Martin.
  • The groups discussed whether Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period.
  • At the end of the war, each woman was in a different place emotionally.  We discussed the choices they made to survive and whether it’s possible for anyone to put the past behind and create a new beginning.  We discussed whether we felt the women were victims or whether they had responsibility for Hitler’s rise to power and therefore responsibility for their own plights.  We also discussed whether people are accountable for the actions of their leaders.
  • The groups were asked whether they learned anything new about the conditions in post-war Germany.
  • Finally, the groups responded to the following statement by Martin, “Americans can face the world with open arms, Marianne had once said, because the world hasn’t yet come to knock it down.”   Additionally, the groups were asked if The Women in the Castle holds any insights for our own time.

Resources:

Jessica Shattuck’s website includes a YouTube clip which is essential to understanding the personal nature of this novel for the author.  The website also contains book discussion questions and an extremely helpful map with sound bites about The Castle, Displaced Persons Camps, POW Camps, Rheinwienlager (US army camps built to hold German soldiers) and the Landjahr Lager (country service camp).

http://jessicashattuck.com/

If you decide to read The Women in the Castle, please be aware that the paperback copy has an additional chapter which further explains Ania’s identity—some members found this very useful. The facilitator agrees with the editor’s choice to remove this chapter from the original manuscript.  While this additional chapter is interesting and descriptive, it does not provide for a seamless storyline and creates additional questions which remain unanswered in the rest of the text. The facilitator said, “The additional chapter is like having an antique hammer in a sock drawer, while interesting, it is a misfit in the sock drawer.”

Book club members also expressed that the relationship between Martin and Mary in 1991 should have been edited out of the novel—it was out of place with the rest of the novel according to the members.

The paperback includes a fascinating and helpful Author’s Note.  The facilitator highly recommends reading the Author’s Note after completing the novel.

Tie-In DVDs in RML’s collection

 

Read-a-Likes:

The Women in the Castle

Book Club 2016-2017 Season Wrap-Up:

Members praised the facilitator for providing a stellar selection of diverse books this season. Members appreciate the selections as the books offered topics rich for discussion.  Members thoroughly enjoy attending discussion days and while many would not have pick-up these reads on their own, they were so thankful to be stretched intellectually by reading other genres.  Last season (2016-2017) there was several least favorite reads, but this season all the selections were enjoyed by the members.

Several Morning Book Break members were only slightly disappointed with Beartown as they were hopeful it would have been as heartwarming and touching as A Man Called Ove.  Many members stated that it was hard to pick a favorite read of the season, as the books on the list were all well-liked.  Some of favorites for this season were:  A Gentleman in Moscow, The Rosie Project, Before We Were Yours, News of the World, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, and Small Great Things—almost the entire selection were book club favorites!

Finally, members were asked to cast a vote on which of the two novels they would most like to read for the upcoming season.  The novels were: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn.  The Books and Bagels Book Club voted for the The Alchemist and The Morning Book Break Book Club voted for The Woman in the Window.

Members are sorry to see the season come to a close and they can’t wait until September for the first discussion of the 2018-2019 Season.  A few members feel like they are going to go into Book Club Withdrawal!  If you’re interested in attending, stop by the Readers’ Advisory Desk for the 2018-2019 Flyer, which will be available in mid-July, and sign-up with a Readers’ Advisor. If you’re already signed up, check out the blog page for September’s title!

Book Club, reader's advisory

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

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.64.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0, with one member giving the book a 3.0. The average of the ratings was 4.49.

Review:
Several members are huge Jodi Picoult fans and they were glad the facilitator finally chose a Picoult book.  Members knew right away that this “issue-oriented” Picoult novel would be perfect for book discussion.  Readers liked that the book was beautifully researched and they thought the Author’s Note at the end showed the author’s careful construction about the sensitive issue of racism. Members thought that they would recommend the Author’s Note to readers who would not read the novel (the Author’s Note does contain spoilers).  Members appreciate that Picoult used her readership/fan-base to promote a difficult topic that is close to her heart.  Members liked that the reading was accessible while challenging readers to recognize subtle racism.  Ms. Picoult involves her readers in a gentle way, asking them to ponder some very difficult questions.  Jodi Picoult is well-known for getting readers to develop empathy for her characters with her use of descriptive language.  She takes readers on an emotional journey as she writes well-drawn believable characters.  Readers genuinely care about her characters which contribute to them being memorable.  Even the secondary characters are well-drawn, such as the mothers of Ruth and Kennedy. Members like that Picoult used the main characters names as chapter titles—no guessing is required to understand which voice is being presented.

Members thought Small Great Things would be terrific as a movie and indeed, Viola Davis and Julia Roberts are slated to star in the movie version.

Several members thought the book was too long, which conflicted with the ending.  Members thought the novel wrapped up too quickly.

Many members felt the discussion was timely in light of current events and felt the overall message was hopeful.  Members think the book is an important read and members commented on the fantastic line-up of books the past several months at club which in combination gave historical and current views.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The group discussed ways they related to the three main characters.  Many members related to Ruth as an intelligent, hard-working single mother.  Members related to Kennedy as a liberal minded woman juggling the roles of motherhood and her career as a lawyer.  Like Jodi Picoult, all of the members were disgusted by Turk’s behavior, but some members felt Picoult showed how his troubled childhood contributed to his radicalization. We discussed what the role of parenting meant to each of the three characters.  We discussed the ways each of the three characters changed over the course of the novel.  We discussed how Ruth’s relationship with her sister Adisa changed over the course of the novel.  We spent a good deal of time talking about Turk’s transformation.  Many members thought his transformation was too incredible to be believable and yet, Picoult spent time interviewing past members of white supremacist groups to get the voice right and draw a clear picture of how it is possible for members to leave the group and work to undo racism.
  • Several members are regular Jodi Picoult readers and they enjoy her signature twists, however several other members felt the twists to be so contrived that they actually lowered their overall score.
  • In the novel, Kennedy seeks out a neighborhood in which she is the only white person to help her gain some perspective. Members were asked to think of a time when something about their identity made them an outsider and how were they affected by that experience.  Members shared many intimate anecdotal stories—through her Social Justice research Jodi Picoult discovered that open discussions about racial issues are vital and important.
  • The title of the book comes from a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that Ruth’s mother mentions on p. 173: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” We discussed what the quote means to us and cited some example of small great things done by the characters in the novel.
  • Finally, we discussed the difference between “equity” and “equality” as explained in the novel.  We discussed whether or not our perspectives on racism or privilege were changed or challenged by the reading of the book.

Resources:

Read Jodi Picoult’s website to learn about her
and her other fantastic novels:  https://www.jodipicoult.com/

PBS Books interviews Jodi Picoult on small great things at Book Expo 2016—Chicago:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Jodi Picoult, please click here.

Read-a-Likes:

Small Great Things

Book Club, reader's advisory

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups: Up-Coming Events and The Great American Read

The Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group 2017-2018 season will end in June at which time members will receive the 2018-2019 book club list.  The 2018-2019 season will resume in September and we will discuss The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood.  Members will be asked to bring 1-3 most beloved book titles to their club meeting and the facilitator will compile a list to be distributed to the groups in late 2018.  Members will discuss their own favorite books and we will briefly discuss what “books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience” as presented on the PBS program The Great American Read which begins May 22 and concludes in October 2018.

“THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”  (http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/about/show/

Official Trailer: “America’s 100 best-loved books are revealed, launching the campaign & the nationwide vote.”

Book Club, reader's advisory

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – April 2018

after-dinner-mints

Just Desserts Book Discussion Group talks about
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

For April’s meeting, we read Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir, which was published posthumously in 2016.

Dr. Kalanithi was an American neurosurgeon and first time writer. The book is about his life and battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Paul graduated with degrees in English literature, biology, history, and medicine. He graduated from Yale Medical School.

In the memoir, he discusses meeting his wife, who is also a physician. The topic of residency and the many hours of taking care of patients, surgery and declaring a specialty were also touched on.

The irony of the situation was that Paul postponed his life in order to live as a doctor with all the pulls on his time. When he found out that he had advanced lung cancer, and treatment was no longer working, he had to learn how to die. Instead of asking the question “why me”, he learned to ask “why not me?” Paul also would ask the question what makes a life truly well lived.

We had a very lively discussion about life, death, last wishes, and how to honor loved ones. It is a hard subject to bring up with your loved ones. How wonderful to feel so loved and protected, that your own loved ones would want to deal with your desires for end of life decisions.

That way, you could both live in the moment and spend your remaining time making memories and just living!

Our book for May is 1984 by George Orwell!

When Breath Becomes Air

From the Reference Desk, reader's advisory

From the Reference Desk

Please enjoy a series spotlight…

lauren reviews

Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling books offer a hefty dose of suspense, careful world-building, and the comfort of knowing that not only do the bad guys get what’s coming to them but that there’s a happy ending for the main characters.

While the overall arc builds towards one consistent turning point, the individual books mainly dwell on the relationships and how those involved handle the issues facing them in classic paranormal romance fashion. (Yes, there are those with psychic powers, people who can change into leopards, wolves, and other creatures, and regular humans in this future-set series. This will either intrigue you or you’ll stop reading. Either reaction is fine.)

Knowing that there is comeuppance is a great comfort to readers, because Singh does not shy away from portraying the worst of human nature as well as the best. The villains, most of whom are otherwise outside the reach of justice, do wind up either checkmated or excised from the world. Her heroes and heroines are, more often than not, haunted by the past and are healing from traumas, but also possessed of the ability to not only survive but to grow in the aftermath. In this sense, the books hew to romantic suspense guidelines.

The setting is futuristic, but mildly so; most changes are technological, such as cars being able to hover as well as drive on wheels, and the power sources being primarily solar and hydro-electric. Most of it is, if not actively possible now, at least theoretically possible within our lifetimes. For all that shape-shifters may be considered fantastic, Singh places both the Psy and the Changelings on a continuum from humans.

Although the series can be read in order, it isn’t strictly necessary. If you’d like to start with a taste, we have a short story collection, Wild Embrace. If you’d prefer to dive  into the action, we have book 10 and books 12-15, plus the first in the Psy-Changeling Trinity,  what the author refers to as ‘season 2’. Should you prefer to begin at the beginning, our neighboring libraries have the rest; you can either take a short trip over and register your RML card with them before checking out a stack or you can ask us to get them for you via inter-library loan. (Having started with what we had and then going back to read the rest, I can vouch for the effectiveness of each method.)

Do read the summary of each book to decide if it’s right for you. They are usually upfront about potential issues, and if that doesn’t give enough information, the first few pages usually will. If you love romantic suspense and thrillers, give these a try, ideally in your coziest reading spot with something to sip when you need a pause in the action, and possibly something to fan yourself with when things heat up between the main characters.

 

Liner Notes, reader's advisory

Liner Notes 4/25/18

Liner Notes

Duke Ellington CDs available at Rolling Meadows Library;

Black, Brown & Beige
Dance Concerts: California, 1958
In Grand Company
Duke Ellington Live at The Blue Note
Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits
Duke Ellington: Ken Burns Jazz
Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Duke Ellington, 1926-1931
The Great Concerts – Chicago Civic Opera 1946
The Suites: New York, 1968 & 1970
22 Original Big Band Recordings