Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – March 2017


Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux

This month, our group read Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux. Many of our members have seen various productions of the musical, but none of us had read the book before.

Gaston Leroux was born in Paris in 1868. He studied law in school.  After school, Gaston started writing as a court reporter, theater critic, and international correspondent. He covered the 1905 Russian Revolution.

In 1907, Leroux began writing fiction. In 1908, he wrote The Mystery of the Yellow Room. In 1911, Leroux wrote The Phantom of the Opera.   It was not well received until the 1925 film with Lon Chaney hit the movie screen. There was also a huge revival when Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into the longest running musical of all time! Leroux’s contribution to French detective fiction is considered a parallel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s in the U.K. and Edgar Allan Poe’s in the U.S. He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur in 1909.  Leroux died in 1927 in Nice.

We shared a great discussion about the author, the novel, and the former Paris Opera House. In 1858, Emperor Napoleon III of France ordered a new opera house be built in Paris that would be the envy of the world. Over 700 architects competed for the position of Chief architect. Charles Garnier was chosen for the job. The building was built on three acres with seven roads like spokes of a wheel coming out from it.  The new opera house had seventeen floors with eighty dressing rooms.  It opened to the public in 1875.

This beautifully written gothic novel explores light versus darkness, love versus obsession and unrequited love. We all agreed that the theater is a very romantic setting for our story. We also talked about the importance of masks to the story.

All in all, a magical evening with French pastries and an awesome discussion!

The Phantom of the Opera

Book Club

The After Party – Morning Book Break – March 2017


Morning Book Break Discussion on My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Rating: My Name Is Lucy Barton received ratings between minus, minus, minus 1.0 (member sarcasm) and 4.5 with an average rating of 2.28.  This is the lowest combined rating for a book discussed in Morning Book Break in the last four years.

Review:  Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions and snow cover at the time of the meeting, many members were unable to join us for club. Some members were snowed in; nevertheless, many members did email the facilitator their comments and ratings. Hooray for participation from home!  These comments/ratings were read aloud at the end of club during the critiquing session time.  The members who were able to attend really enjoyed the in-depth discussion; they felt the discussion shed new light on the novel and elevated the reading experience.  The discussion was thought-provoking and one member commented that each member present seemed to uncover a hidden element in the story that other members had not formerly discovered.  My Name Is Lucy Barton is a novel that leaves so many things unsaid, leaving readers desiring to meet in clubs to piece together the story.  Nancy Pearl, librarian and author of Book Lust, says My Name Is Lucy Barton is the perfect book club read, as it is a novel that lends itself to discuss what is not written on the page.  Discussions will center on what is unsaid and clubs will enjoy working together to fill in the gaps.

Discussion Highlights:

Several members commented on how much they hated the book—this cannot be understated.

  • Members stated that the writing was flat, vague, and too bare bones.
  • Members did not like filling-in-the-blanks regarding specifics about the characters.  Members felt they were left in the dark about many things in the novel.
  • Members were frustrated and wished the author wrote more about the characters and their relationship to other another.
  • Many members could not relate to the characters and didn’t care about the characters.
  • Some members thought the book needed more character development.
  • Some members thought the author demanded a lot from the reader, and they really did not want to work that hard to understand what was not written on the page.

Several members liked the book and three members thought the novel was exquisite.

  • They enjoyed the cadence and the poetic language of the novel.
  • They liked Strout’s skillful use of dialogue and her use of stream-of-consciousness like writing.
  • Members liked the raw, emotional, and very real relationship between Lucy and her mother.
  • Members enjoy books when authors’ require readers to fill-in-the-blanks and piece together the storyline.
  • Members enjoyed the shared gossip between mother and daughter and felt this to be so very real. The gossip portrayed in the novel is the odd love language between mother and daughter and provides comfort to daughter during her hospitalization.
  • Members like the “ruthless” aspect of Lucy which allowed her to overcome such a tragic beginning. (A father possibly suffering from PTSD and a mother with a possibly abusive past.)(Lucy suffers possible sexual abuse.)
  • Members love the fact that Lucy as a child becomes a reader and later in life becomes a writer.

Members liked the metafictional aspects of the book.

  • One member thought the take away message of the book was that we can overcome much, but some mistakes cannot be repaired—we only have one story(life).
  • One member like the symbolism of the marble statue on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Lucy visits the statue again and again as it reminds her of the love/hate relationships she has with her parents and siblings—Lucy saw how really unhealthy her family was, but also “how our roots were twisted so tenaciously around one another’s hearts.”
  • Members liked that the author’s writing allows the reader to engage at a variety of levels.


2:20-3:50 and 7:45-8:28 Elizabeth Strout discusses choice of first person narration and risks involved.

27:20-29:34 and 34:42-36:31 Elizabeth Strout answers the following questions:

“Your writing, at times, sounds mystical. Is that something you aim for?”

“Is Lucy or are any of your other characters, based in reality?”

“Was fiction writing always your aspiration, or were you drawn to other forms of literature at first?”


The facilitator thought Alice Munro’s writing to be very similar to Elizabeth Strout’s writing. An interesting note:  Kimberly Farr is the reader for both audiobooks—Dear Life: Stories and My Name is Lucy Barton.  Kimberly Farr excels in bringing the characters to life.

For other books by Elizabeth Strout in our collection, please click here.


We also own the mini-series Olive Kitteridge, based on Strout’s popular novel.

My Name is Lucy Barton

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels – March 2017


Books and Bagels Discussion on The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda


Rating: The Golden Son received ratings between 3.5 and 5.0 with an average rating of 4.02.  This is a very high average for this club.

Review:  Members thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it was very favorably received.  They loved Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s extensive research about the education of medical doctors in the United States and the challenges presented.  Members enjoyed the author’s exploration of the panchayat system, an Indian tradition of settling disputes within a community.  Members are life-long learners and view discovery into novels with historical and cultural perspectives from other countries as an exciting quest.  They found the panchayat system intriguing and they appreciated Gowda’s coverage.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Members appreciated the exploration of internships and residency in the medical profession. It was interesting to see the evolution of a trained physician.
  • Members were interested in arranged marriages, dowry, and bride burning discussed within the novel.
  • Members liked Gowda’s use of metaphors such as; the dispute of the mango tree and the clay as a metaphor for life.
  • Members really liked the vignettes presented throughout the novel showing the panchayat system and the arbitration process.
  • Many members’ only negative comments were about the ending.
  • Several members found the ending to be contrived, but not completely like a Hollywood ending.  It was more realistic that one of the main characters, Anil, did not end up with the other main character, Leena.
  • A few members thought the ending needed to be tighter.
  • Members found this to be an easy, enjoyable read without many literary devices and sometimes this is a nice break.  They enjoyed the dialogue between characters and found it to be realistic.
  • Three members had read Gowda’s first novel, Secret Daughter, and they commented that her second novel The Golden Son contained an improved writing style.


Read Gowda’s inspiration for The Golden Son:

Gowda is interviewed by Liza Fromer about The Golden Son:


Displays, Slideshows

March Displays

Every month, Reader’s Advisory puts out different displays in the area surrounding our desk.  For us, it’s a fun way to tie in the materials we love to the specific month or season!  Anything that is on the cubes can be checked out, just like anything else in the library!

For the month of March, there are several different exciting displays to choose from.

“New Destinations,” located on the left book cube, is a display of fiction that will transport you to far off places and exotic locales.

“Dog Tales and Animal Adventures,” located on the center book cube, is a display of animal-oriented fiction.  No matter what types of animals interest you, there is something here for everyone.

“Celebrate Female Artists: Women’s History Month,” located on the CD display cube, is music by female artists of all genres.  Honor these women and their contributions to music by checking some albums out!

“Spotlight On…Dystopian Fiction,” located on our corner display, is a wide selection of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.  For the curious, dystopian literature generally takes a current social problem and extrapolates upon it.  Police states, mass surveillance, oppression, mass poverty, and the like can all be hallmarks of dystopian fiction.

The fiction and nonfiction film walls have similar themes this month, focusing on women and women’s issues in honor of Women’s History Month.  The fiction film wall is “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History,” focusing on feature films about women throughout history that have made their mark on society.  The nonfiction film wall is “We Are All Wonderwomen!” documentaries about issues facing women today and biographies of historical women.

Our Teen displays are always changing; check out our Instagram feed on the home page for the latest display!

Check out the slideshow below for photos of each of these displays.
We encourage you to come in and check out these displays for yourself; you can always take something home!

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