Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break – March 2018

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Morning Book Break Book Discussion on
Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Ratings:
The book received ratings between a 0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.43.

Review:
This novel was selected for many reasons.  A primary reason was this club’s real love for Fredrik Backman’s novel A Man Called Ove.  This was, without exception, a club all-time favorite.  Additionally, selections are made by the facilitator with potential discussions in mind.  This club had never explored the role of sports in the US. The facilitator presented the TIME magazine (August 24, 2017) article entitled, “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry.” The article states, “Across the U.S., the rise in travel teams has led to the kind of facilities arms race once reserved for big colleges and the pros. Cities and towns are using tax money to build or incentivize play-and-stay mega-complexes, betting that the influx of visitors will lift the local economy.”  This is the backdrop of Beartown with the addition of a sexual assault which changes the dynamics of the town and its people.

Positive comments:
Many members have fond memories of their children and grandchildren participating in sports.  Sports were a part of family bonding and life-long lessons were imparted. Sports offered real opportunities for teachable moments.  Several members recall their own pathetic partnership with sports. The members came from an era, where girls sports did not count and many are glad to see that girls have equal opportunities in this arena.

Members felt the author did a wonderful job describing the area—the member saw the winter scenes in their minds.

Negative comments:
Members felt the writing was choppy and uneven.  Members wondered if part of the problem was the translation from Swedish to English. The members felt the book was in desperate need of editing.  One member felt 200 pages could be cut—members thought there was too much information presented about hockey. Facilitator shared that Fredrik Backman relayed information about his writing process. “Maybe I could put it like this: I have learned to build a box for me to play within.  Which means I decide the world my character gets to explore, and the limits of it, and I try to write a beginning and an ending to the story first of all. That way I’m free to have new ideas within it, but I have certain boundaries that force me to actually finish the story at some point.  Otherwise I would probably just keep on going and every novel would be 60,000 pages long.” Members laughed aloud as they could barely read his 400+ pages let alone 60,000 pages.

Members thought Backman used too many characters and they felt the characters were underdeveloped.

For the most part, members were not that interested in a novel that revolved around sports, particularly hockey.

Several members disliked the constant use of profanity throughout the novel.  Some members wonder whether young adults really talk like they are portrayed in the novel.  

Members would not recommend this novel to others.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The group discussed what hockey means to the people of Beartown and what kind of community has been built by the people of Beartown.  
  • Discussion about the presentation of social classes in Beartown and the ways hockey can cut through class distinctions or reinforce them.
  • We discussed the pressures applied to the hockey team by the town and the parents.  We discussed what hockey demands from the boys. We discussed which parents were most successful at preparing their children for the real world.
  • The group discussed the portrayal of several marriages in the novel and the views of various characters regarding working mothers.  
  • The group discussed the role of secrets in the novel.
  • The author often chooses to not use first names, and we discussed how this decision affected our opinion of the various characters.
  • In reading the novel, we saw that playing on a sports team teaches young people values like loyalty, responsibility, and commitment and it can also promote exclusion, aggression, and entitlement.  We discuss whether there are behaviors that are rewarded in a sports competition but considered inappropriate in real life. We talked about which characters had difficulty navigating these behaviors.
  • We discussed how Maya’s final act shapes her future and Kevin’s future. We talked about the characters who find the courage to go against the grain of the tight-knit Beartown community.  
  • We discussed whether the tradition of the Beartown Hockey Club will continue and if it will change going forward.

Resources:

Barnes and Noble interview with Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman’s website which includes an interesting Q & A courtesy of Shelf Awareness:
http://fredrikbackmanbooks.com/about-fredrik-backman.html

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Fredrik Backman, please click here.

Read-a-Likes:

Beartown

Everyone who attend both Books and Bagels & Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups appreciated delving deeply into the current pulse of small town America.  The groups explored the plight of “brain drain” through reading the following literature; Nobody’s Fool, Everybody’s Fool, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, and Beartown.  It was a pleasure to explore this matter in a deeper way and make literary connections to current events.

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Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Books and Bagels – February 2018

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion on
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo and Nobody’s Fool (DVD)

Ratings:
The book received ratings between a 3.5 and 5.0. One member gave the book a 2.00, but after the discussion was able to elevate her score to a 2.5. The average of the ratings was 4.23.

Review:
Members were asked to read Everybody’s Fool and watch the DVD Nobody’s Fool and then compare and contrast these two formats.  Members were asked whether Russo revisited any themes or characters. What recurring characters have changed or remained the same?  What do you think that the books offer collectively?

The members overall really enjoyed the movie, Nobody’s Fool.  Several members gathered together to view the film—and they enjoyed this group experience.  The members loved watching Paul Newman (Sully), Jessica Tandy (Miss Beryl), and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Douglas Raymer) portrays Russo’s characters.  The members miss these actors, just as Richard Russo misses them.  Sully is partly based on Richard Russo’s father, but Russo believes Sully also, belongs to Paul Newman—he is the embodiment of Sully.  Russo is hopeful that Everybody’s Fool will be optioned for a movie, but finds it hard to picture anyone else as Sully, Miss Beryl, or Douglas Raymer. Members enjoyed this format—watching a movie and then reading the sequel.  Members felt more connected to the characters and followed the novel more readily by using this method.

Members loved the humor contained within the novel.  During the book discussion, members laughed heartily as they recalled funny portions of the novel.  Members found the writing style to be remarkable and the descriptions very perceptive about the human race.  Although, the novel deals with very serious issues, members found the novel to be surprisingly uplifting.  Members appreciated Russo’s ability to develop rich depictions of primary and secondary characters.

Next month, members will read Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis  by J.D. Vance and they will be asked to compare and contrast the fictional portrayal of small town America (Everybody’s Fool) with the nonfiction portrayal (Hillbilly Elegy).

Discussion Highlights:

  • Discussion about the title of the book and who the title might be referencing.
  • Everybody’s Fool opens with a description of the local cemetery with several more visits throughout the novel.  The group discussed the symbolism implied in the setting.  Additional discussion about the North Bath and comparisons to the neighboring town of Schuyler Springs which led to an evaluation of fortune and luck experienced by different towns.
  • Discussion about the various relationships presented in the novel.
  • Discussed themes of aging, mortality, racism, prejudice and the treatment of women.
  • The members discussed which characters they felt the most sympathy for and whether any characters significantly changed over the course of the novel. We discussed how and why the characters are vulnerable to the judgements of others
  • Members discussed the theme of legacy and the influence of deceased characters throughout the story.  Additionally, we discussed the role of secrets, complicity, and forgiveness in the novel.
  • Of course, we discussed Russo’s use of comedy in the novel.

Resources:

For other books and audiobooks by Richard Russo, please click here.

 Richard Russo and Lori Ostlund in conversation at the Bay Area Book Festival.

Richard Russo discusses his recently-released novel with PBS correspondent Jeffrey Brown at Book Expo America 2016 in Chicago.

Richard Russo introduces Everybody’s Fool at University Book Store – Seattle

Amor Towles interviews Russo for Martha’s Vineyard Authors Series

Read-a-Likes:

Everybodys Fool

Richard Russo is known for his ability to intricately draw secondary characters.  In a recent interview, he commented that one of his core beliefs is that there are no small lives.  What a tribute to the richness of all human life! This core belief definitely comes through in his writing.

From the Reference Desk, reader's advisory

From the Reference Desk

With February approaching, please enjoy some reviews of romantic fiction…

lauren reviews

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The description sounded fabulous – two devoted older siblings, each determined to do their best for beloved younger siblings, match wits and fall in love. Which was accurate…to a point. Alas, the Duke has a serious issue with thinking he ought to behave and then promptly giving in to his desire to kiss the heroine. In fairness, the heroine is equally inclined to be kissed; as a reader it got irksome for them to be forever going ‘I shouldn’t’ and then doing exactly that. For those seeking a heroine who takes her responsibilities and promises seriously, this is recommended, as long as one doesn’t mind frequent, steamy scenes.

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Lisa Kleypas gives us a dissolute hero whose turn to self-control makes a marked difference in his appearance and a heroine who is happy to call his nonsense exactly what it is. Be aware that the hero has some serious issues stretching back to his childhood, and blackmail is conducted by multiple characters.
Lorraine Heath’s story centers around a man with a misplaced sense of responsibility, a love that never faded, and the woman whose heart he broke. There is, of course, a happy ending.
Megan Frampton has a grand time with a faux engagement turning real, a heroine who delights in coming up with plausible definitions for words, and a house party. The commitment-phobic hero, his mama who just wants him to travel less often, and Lady Sophronia (and the prospect of chickens hanging before her) all prove charming.
Vivienne Lorret offers up a scientific Duke, his Marriage Formula, a lady who is (theoretically) only at his house party to support her friend, and a definite zing when the two meet. Bonus points for discussion of actual innovations of the time.
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This book was on my To Be Read list for a long time, and I really thought I’d love it. I was half-right: Dimple and Rishi are both brilliant, awkward, and determined to do things their own way. While Rishi starts off making a terrible impression on Dimple, he does eventually manage to win her over – not exactly surprising, since he very much wants to make her happy. The eventual plot twist is delightful. Now, for my major issues: Dimple frequently hits Rishi, hard enough to hurt him, and completely disregards his wishes in order to do what she thinks is best for him. Both of these are major relationship issues, and took the book from a fun read to a disappointment. Though it was good to see an #OwnVoices book and I am still glad that it’s available to our patrons who might wish to see themselves in the hero and heroine, I can only hope that Dimple stops these behaviors as she matures so that they could have an actual happy ending.
Read-a-Likes, reader's advisory

Read-a-Likes: Louise Penny

If you like Louise Penny’s thoughtful, intricate mysteries featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, try these authors:

Ann Cleeves
Colin Cotterill
Deborah Crombie
Tana French
Elizabeth George
Elly Griffiths
Donna Leon
Anne Perry
Ruth Rendell
Peter Robinson
Charles Todd
Jacqueline Winspear

Read A Like Penny

Read-a-Likes, reader's advisory

Read-a-Likes: Agatha Christie

If you love the grand dame of mystery, and want more whodunits with a cozy feel and clever plots, try these authors:

Margery Allingham
M.C. Beaton
Lilian Jackson Braun
Carola Dunn
Dorothy Gilman
Jane Haddam
Carolyn Hart
P.D. James
Jane Langton
Charlotte MacLeod
Ngaio Marsh
Ellis Peters
Ruth Rendell
Dorothy L. Sayers

Read A Like Christie

Read-a-Likes, reader's advisory

Read-a-Likes: Dan Brown

If you like Dan Brown’s fast-paced and suspenseful thrillers, often involving conspiracies, the church and art, try these authors:

Steve Berry
Alan Jacobson
Raymond Khoury
Katherine Neville
Matthew Pearl
Iain Pears
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Douglas Preston
Matthew Reilly
James Rollins
Daniel Silva

Read A Like Dan Brown

Book Club, RA Programs, Read-a-Likes, reader's advisory

After Dinner Mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

This month’s fiction book is Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Mr. Krueger is an American author and crime writer. He is also the author of the Cork O’Connor series of thirteen books. All of his novels are set in Minnesota. William knew that he wanted to be a writer back in the third grade. He wakes up every morning at 5:30 and goes to a nearby cafe’. At the cafe’, he drinks coffee in “his” booth while writing long-hand in wire bound notebooks.

Our story takes place in 1961 in the small town of New Bremen, Minnesota. Our narrator, thirteen year old Frank Drum tells us the story of how in one summer the town experiences an accidental death, a natural death, a suicide, and a murder. This one summer is engraved in Frank’s mind because four deaths in one summer is unheard of for this small town. The young girl that was murdered is Frank’s eighteen year old sister, Ariel, who was heading to college in the fall.

We follow the murder investigation through Frank’s eyes. Frank also has a younger brother, eleven year old, Jake, who has stuttered his whole life. These two young boys are brothers and very best friends.

They adore their sister and want someone brought to justice for her death.

It is also a story about grief. How grief can change an entire family and even an entire town for that matter! For many families, the death of a child tears them apart forever. Why do bad things happen to good people? How could this happen and who is to blame?

We meet many of the townspeople and the author gives us a few “red herrings” as we discover a murderer. William Kent Krueger is a great writer! Ordinary Grace is his first stand-alone novel.

I would also like to thank the Just Desserts book club for a great discussion and 100% attendance by the whole group! I am so thankful for each and every one of you! See you in January for Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things!

Ordinary Grace

 

Audiobooks, Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break – November 2017

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Morning Book Break Book Discussion on
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Rating: This book received a variety of scores between 2.0 and 5.0.  In scoring, the mode was 4.0 and the average rating was 3.79.

Review: Only two members were aware of the abuses suffered under Georgia Tann and her adoption organization, the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The book club members really appreciate learning about events in history, therefore, they found the historical information Wingate presented to be very interesting, heart-wrenching, and compelling.   All members were willing to give this novel a high score (5.0) for the research and historical material presented.

The fictional facet of the novel received mixed reviews. Many members loved the book and they have been recommending it to friends and family. They found the topic fascinating and they spent time conducting further research on the events presented. Many members said the mysterious aspect of the novel grabbed them and they looked forward each day to reading the book. Many found it to be a well-written, easy-read.

The discussion was interesting in that an equal number of members found the writing to be sophomoric and contrived. Many criticized the novel as it was more like a script for a sappy Hollywood or Lifetime movie as opposed to a literary read.  One member thought this might be a YA novel due to the writing style.

Members had differing opinions about the structure of the novel.  Some members were frustrated that the author shifted from 1939 to Present Day throughout the novel. Many thought this would be a tremendous book without the Present Day chapters and they wished the novel just covered the historical material about the shanty boat children—everyone was invested in the Foss children. Some members questioned why so many contemporary novels utilize dual-narration.  Members were confused by the amount of characters presented. One member said she took notes on the names of the characters and had to constantly revise the list. Members chuckled because they want to enjoy a book without having to take copious notes. Other members thoroughly appreciated the structure and felt it added an element of suspense to the novel.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The dual-narration structure of the novel and clarification of some of the roles of the main characters.
  • Discussion about the sisters’ decision to keep their family history secret. The group discussed whether family secrets should remain secret.
  • Discussion about whether the birth parents were responsible or careless individuals.
  • Was the ending realistic or unrealistic? What happens to Avery and Trent’s relationship?
  • Why the novel received worldwide interest? What themes are universal?
  • What can society do to prevent people like Georgia Tann from taking advantage of the most vulnerable?

Resources:

http://www.lisawingate.com/

A 60 Minutes report on the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal:

For other books by Lisa Wingate in our collection, please click here.

 

Read-a-Likes:

Before We Were Yours

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party–Books and Bagels–November 2017

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion on
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Rating: This book received a variety of scores between 3.0 and 4.5. In scoring, the mode was 4.50 and the average rating was 4.50.

Review: The novel was selected to represent our classic book this book club season. Most members had never read Fahrenheit 451 before and many members note the science fiction genre is not their usual fare. Members found the novel scary and disturbing, yet profound. Much discussion centered on the relevance for today and yet, the book was published in 1953 with symbolism related to atomic warfare, the Cold War, and McCarthyism. It is chilling to see Bradbury predict today’s environment! Additionally, Bradbury writes prophetically about a society without literature, where sheer entertainment and happiness is the goal for all citizens and however, the citizens are isolated, alienated, and committing suicide on a regular basis. Bradbury describes a world where people receive abbreviated information and spend their days with the TV “family.” The group discussed how twitter, texting, and reality shows mirror the society Bradbury described. Members discuss censorship, totalitarianism, and education. Members praised the role of libraries in providing information and access to all.
Some members found the characters underdeveloped, but cited this was obviously intentional. At times, it would have been helpful to know the characters back stories to understand why certain choices were made. The facilitator thinks it’s a great device that makes the reader’s mind continue to write the story. Some members found the book confusing and challenging and found that it took a while for the ideas to assimilate, but the book discussion and the Bradbury interview assisted.
Several members offered book recommendations. One member loves Bradbury’s poetic style and recommends Dandelion Wine, a hymn to summer. Another member noting the importance of books and book clubs recommended Dear Fahrenheit 451 : Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence. Finally, one member suggested reading A Clockwork Orange, a violent, scary dystopian novel. One member commented on Bradbury’s talent in predicting the future and suggests reading “There Will Come Soft Rains” a short story by Ray Bradbury which was first published in 1950. Later that same year the story was included in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. This story prophetically introduces the reader to a computer-controlled house that does everything for the family.
Most members relayed that Ray Bradbury was indeed, a truly gifted writer and in many ways was prophetic. Most members would not have selected this science fiction book, but they were happy that it was a book club selection. The discussion, as always, was dynamic, insightful, and elevated the individual reading of the book.

Discussion Highlights:

• The role of leisure, education, and intellectual pursuits in societies
• Why suicide occurs frequently in this dystopian novel
• The role of Beatty as the story’s antagonist—Did Beatty want to die? Did Beatty program the Mechanical Hound? Firemen are “custodians of peace of mind,” so, how well are they accomplishing this task? Captain Beatty is a well-read man, so why hasn’t he been punished?
• What is the role of the Mechanical Hound?
• What role does Clarisse play in the novel? Did she leave the story too abruptly?
• Montag turns to books to liberate him; instead his life is in shambles. Does he benefit from books?
• In the future, when the war is over, do you believe the books, the “book people” carry inside themselves will make a difference?
• The novel was written in 1953, but describes a futuristic society that one could argue forecast what life is like today. Do you feel the novel’s revelation has come true?
• What conditions do you see in our world that parallels the story world?

Resources:
http://www.raybradbury.com/

Listen as Ray Bradbury discusses how Fahrenheit 451 came to be written:

 

Read-a-Likes: 

Fahrenheit 451

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party—Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break—October 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Ratings:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 3.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.36. Four members gave the book a 5.  This is a high rating compare to other book club selections evaluated in past years.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 2.5 and 5.0.  The average of the ratings was 3.63.

Review:

Morning Book Break: While most members found the book discussion lively and interesting, they found the book, in general, to be a little disappointing.  Many members found the writing to be tedious and slow-moving at times.  They found the book to be an easy read, but not compelling.  They thought the writing at the end was hurried—just like a film that wraps everything up in the last five minutes.  A few members thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be quite humorous.  Several members found the book educational in gently exposing the reader to Asperger’s Syndrome and/or the Autism Spectrum.  One member stated that the main character, Don Tillman, was inspirational in striving to succeed without ever giving up. Several members relayed that it is helpful to read fiction to assist us in navigating our interactions with others.  Fiction helps us to be sensitive to the needs of others.   One member said, “the author showed if you move beyond the surface differences of a person, we all have something to offer, we all have value and strengths, and we all deserve respect and to be treated with dignity.”

Books and Bagels: The novel was well received by members.  Members found the novel enlightening, engaging, and entertaining.  Members found themselves frequently laughing aloud.  Although, not necessary literary, they found the book fun and very clever.  As an aside, the author claims he could have made the novel literary and award winning by changing several sentences at the end, but he claims he likes to write what people like to read.  Members are looking forward to the movie and hope the casting does justice to the book’s characters. Several members thought about what actors should be cast in the roles of Don and Rosie. One member, who is not a fan of romance novels, constantly recommends this novel to colleagues as it is on her “top 10 list to recommend.” One member read the sequel, which she thoroughly enjoyed and she feels it is continuous part of this amazing story that everyone should read.  Another member read the sequel and was disappointed in that, it was not of the same caliber as the debut.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Gaining understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome and/or the Autism Spectrum via fiction.
  • Discussed: What is love? And, Is it smart to have a list of criteria for a potential partner?
  • Structure and chaos in our lives & routines in our lives (Helpful? Limiting?)
  • Two secondary characters are involved in an open marriage. We discussed this concept.
  • The Rosie Project was selected as the adult read for 2016-2017 by the Suburban Mosaic organization.  The Mosaic’s goal is to foster cultural understanding through literature.  The discussion groups were asked whether or not, this goal was achieved.  Overall, both discussion groups found this novel to be excellent in achieving the goal of fostering some understanding of the Autism Spectrum, but, more importantly, understanding differences in people.

Resources:

For other books by Graeme Simsion in our collection, please click here.

http://graemesimsion.com/

Bill & Melinda Gates interview Graeme Simsion about The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion answers question for The Big Read:



Read-a-Likes:

The Rosie Project