Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – January 2020

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 later to work to complete our goals!  And, it is never too later 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)

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Alan Bradley, please click here.

Visit Alan Bradley’s website.

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.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – November 2019

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.

Discussion Highlights:

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.

Resources:

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.

Read-a-Likes:

Book Club, reader's advisory

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

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion group members rated the book between a 3.5 and 5.0 with one member giving the book a 2.5. The average of the ratings was 3.79.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion group rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.33.

Review:
The novel was 502 pages long, so sadly during the holiday season not all members were able to finish the novel.  Some members thought that the book demanded a lot of time and that there were too many characters and the book was too long. The facilitator promised a shorter book for the 2019-2020 book club season.

Many members enjoyed the cozy British mystery compared to the contemporary mystery.  Members found that the cozy British mystery reminded them of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes novels.  Members definitely would recommend this novel to people who enjoy cozy mysteries written in the vein of Christie.  One member, who has read all of Christie’s books, thought Horowitz followed the pattern and pitch of Christie, but Magpie Murders was his own style—she found this very intriguing. One member felt the book in a way offered a tutorial on murder mysteries.

Overall, members who were able to read the novel in bigger chunks seemed to be more satisfied with novel.  Members found the book very cleverly written and that it generated good discussion even for members who do not read mysteries.  On the whole, members were satisfied with the ending and no one was able to solve the mystery in its entirety.

Two members had read the book previously as it received high recommendations from Book Pages.  These members thought the book was a cut above and very cerebral.  They thought the book accurately portrayed the English community and that the descriptions of the characters were vivid.  One member thought about whether or not the book could have been published as two books.  The members resolved her own inquiry, by stating that she believed for the novel to work it need to be published as two mysteries in one book.

Several members were frustrated that Horowitz led them so far afield and indeed, he pulled scenarios out of the bag to throw readers off the track.  Nevertheless, Horowitz attempts to calm the reader’s frustration by inserting statements in the novel to encourage the reader to continue.  On p. 145 (cozy mystery) Atticus Pund wrote in his masterwork, The Landscape of Criminal Investigation: “One can think of the truth as eine vertiefung—a sort of deep valley which may not be visible from a distance but which will come upon you quite suddenly.  There are many ways to arrive there. A line of questioning that turns out to be irrelevant still has the power to bring you nearer to your goal.  There are no wasted journeys in the detection a crime.”

Finally, several members who are not fans of mysteries really enjoyed the novel.  They enjoyed trying to solve the puzzles and felt this was a great brain exercise.

Discussion Highlights:

  • In Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz gives occasional commentary comparing literary fiction and popular fiction and the artist’s endeavor in a commercial world. The facilitator posed some general questions regarding these topics. The facilitator created these questions to cover the overall questions about why mysteries are so successful in the publishing world.
  • Using characters, Anthony Horowitz talks about the public’s need for mysteries. He speaks to the obsession the public has for murder mysteries.

The group was asked to comment on these sections of the book:

p. 70 – Susan Ryeland, editor of Cloverleaf books
“…It’s strange when you think about it. There are hundreds and hundreds of murders in books and television. It would be hard for narrative fiction to survive without them.  And yet there are almost none in real life…Why is it that we have such a need for murder mystery and what is it that attracts us—the crime or the solution?  Do we have some primal need of bloodshed because our own lives are so safe, so comfortable?”

p. 159 Detective Inspector Richard Locke
“All these murders on TV…Every night…People have some sort of fixation. And what really annoys me is that it’s nothing like the truth…There are only three motives. Sex, anger and money…And you know how we catch them? We don’t ask them clever questions and work out that they don’t have an alibi, that they weren’t actually where they were meant to be. We catch them on CCTV.  Half the time, they leave their DNA all over the crime scene.  Or they confess. Maybe one day you should publish the truth although I’m telling you, nobody would want to read it.”

The facilitator further responded from the book.  On pages 183-184, Susan Ryeland speaks to the power of mysteries.

The group was asked to offer commentary about this statement from the book:

“In a world of full of uncertainties, is it not inherently satisfying to come to the last page with every i dotted and every t crossed?  …We are surrounded by tensions and ambiguities, which we spend half our life trying to resolve, and we’ll probably be on our own deathbed when we reach that moment when everything makes sense.  Just about every whodunnit provides that pleasure.  It is the reason for their existence.”

The facilitator addressed the comments made in Magpie Murders about the value of mysteries.

Andreas, Ancient Greek scholar, debates Susan regarding the literary value of mysteries on pp. 164-165.

Andreas said, “’I read them because you worked on them and obviously I cared about       you.  But I thought they were crap.’I was shocked.  I didn’t know what to say.

‘They made a lot of money.’

‘Cigarettes make a lot of money.  Toilet paper makes a lot of money.  It doesn’t mean            they’re worth anything.’

‘You can’t say that.’

‘Why not? Alan Conway was laughing at you, Susan.  He was laughing at everyone.  I           know about writing. I teach Homer…He knew what those books were—and he knew        when he was putting them together.  They’re badly written trash!’

‘I don’t agree.  They’re very well written.  Millions of people enjoyed them.’

‘They’re worth nothing! Eighty thousand words to prove that they butler did it?’

‘You’re just being snobbish.’

‘And you’re defending something that you always knew had no value at all.’”

Then the facilitator asked the group whether mysteries have any lasting value to our society.

Melissa Conway, Alan’s ex-wife talks to Susan about her role in getting Alan to write detective fiction.  Melissa loved Alan’s literary work, but it wasn’t getting published.  She convinced Alan to write mysteries because he always had a fascination with tricks and trompe l’oeils.  Melissa helped him to write his first mystery, Atticus Pund Investigates and as his mysteries became publishing sensations, Alan changed and was no longer fulfilled.  Alan hated his main character, the noble, Atticus Pund.  Melissa states on page 198, “Of course, it wasn’t as good as his other work.  It was lighter and completely pointless, but I thought it was beautifully written…”

The facilitator asked the group if they read mysteries or watch mysteries, if so, why do they enjoy about them.

  • The group discussed clues that were hidden in plain sight and how skillful Horowitz was in burying those clues.
  • The group discussed at length the many red-herrings Horowitz used to lead the reader astray.
  • We discussed how the author ratcheted up the suspense.
  • We discussed at what point in the book the members began to unravel the mystery.
  • Finally, we discussed the skill necessary to write this novel. We compared and contrasted the Golden Age mystery set in the 1950’s with the Contemporary mystery.  We compared the language, tone, style, pace, and typeface used. We discussed the use of character counterparts in each novel.  We discussed the significance of the anagram.  Also, members stated they would like to know the meaning behind the cover of Magpie Murders.

Resources:

Anthony Horowitz, the author, cleverly uses two different typefaces to assist the reader in distinguishing between the two mysteries. The Cozy Mystery pages are numbered at the bottom of each page and the Contemporary Mystery pages are numbered at the top of each page.

1) Cozy Mystery set in 1950’s (pp. 3-212 and near very end of entire book—Chapter entitled, A Secret Never to be Told (pp. 217-241))

2) Contemporary Mystery—very beginning of book (pp.1-4) continues in middle of book (pp. 5-232) and epilogue entitled, Agios Nikolaos, Crete (pp. 233-236)

(pages correspond to Regular Type Hardcover copy)

Characters in Cozy Mystery:

Sir Magnus Pye: Lord of Pye Hall
Lady Frances Pye: Magnus’s wife
Jack Dartford: Lady Frances Pye’s lover
Frederick (Freddy) Pye: Magnus and Frances’ son
Clarissa Pye: spinster sister of Magnus and local schoolteacher
Dr. Redwing: Local Doctor
Arthur: Artist husband of Dr. Redwing
Dr. Edgar Rennard: Dr. Redwing’s father who has dementia
Mary Blakiston: housekeeper at Pye Hall
Matthew Blakiston: Mary’s estranged husband
Tom Blakiston: one of Mary and Matthew’s sons
Robert Blakiston: one of Mary and Matthew’s sons
Joy Sanderling: Robert’s fiancé
Neville Brent: groundskeeper at Pye Hall
Diana Weaver: local cleaning lady
Jeffrey Weaver: elderly gravedigger
Rev. Robert Osborne: local vicar
Henrietta Osborne: Vicar’s wife
Johnny and Gemma Whitehead: owners of local antique shop
Arthur Reeve: recently burglarized and medal collection missing
Detective Inspector Raymond Chubb: local policeman
Atticus Pund: Poirot-like character for this mystery
James Fraser: Atticus’s sidekick

Characters in Contemporary Murder Mystery (counterparts from Cozy mystery in parentheses):

Susan Ryeland (Atticus Pund): editor, Cloverleaf books
Andreas Pataks: Susan’s professor boyfriend
Charles Clover (Robert Blakiston): CEO and founder of Cloverleaf books
Jemina Humphries: Charles Clover’s secretary
Alan Conway (Sir Magnus Pye): author of Magpie Murders
Sajid Khan and wife: Alan’s lawyer and friend
Rev. Tom Robeson (Rev. Robin Osborne): local vicar
Mark Redmond (Matthew Blakiston): TV and Film producer of Red Herring Productions/possible developing The Atticus Adventures
John White (Johnny Whitehead): hedgefund manager and Alan’s neighbor
Claire Jenkins (Clarissa Pye): Alan’s sister
James Taylor (James Fraser): Alan’s boyfriend
Melissa Conway (Lady Frances Pye): Alan’s ex-wife
Frederick/Freddy Conway (Frederick/Freddy Pye): Alan and Melissa’s son
Detective Superintendent Richard Locke (Detective Inspector Raymond Chubb): detective who helped Melissa and Alan with research for mystery novels

https://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/

 

Read-a-Likes:

Magpie Murders

Anthony Horowitz is well known for creating and writing Foyle’s War and his wife,
Jane Green, is the producer.
Horowitz has also written many screenplays for Midsomer Murders.

For books and DVDs in our collection by Anthony Horowitz, please click here.

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

Displays, RA Programs

Let’s Plan a “Wise Guys” Weekend!

Discover the many ways you can benefit from the Rolling Meadows Library collection with our Let’s Plan a Weekend displays at the Welcome Desk!

We are having small, themed raffles in conjunction with these displays that patrons can enter to win!   Each display also includes bookmarks to take home on how to create your own unique, themed experiences with library materials, which are also on display.  Raffle winners do need to have a Rolling Meadows library card, but everyone can check out the materials or take home a bookmark!

The display which has just ended was “Let’s Plan a 007 Weekend!”  Patrons entered to win a James Bond themed mega pack of prizes, which included Bond movies, spy gear, and more.  This pack continued in our Summer Reading Program theme of “Get a Clue…at the Library!”
Our winners for this prize pack was Linda L., out of a total out 164 entries!

Our current display is also linked to our annual Summer Reading Program! “Let’s Plan a ‘Wise Guys’ Weekend!” has two different packs of prizes to win, one themed around the HBO show The Sopranos, and one themed more generally around the mystery and fascination surrounding the mob.

Questions?  Call the library @ 847.259.6050 or stop by the Welcome Desk!

7-10 Wise Guys

RA Programs

Summer Reading has Begun!

HP-01-207

Our annual Summer Reading Program began on Monday, June 12th.  Come on in and sign up for our mystery themed extravaganza!

For Adults, each book read gives you an entry to win prize packs, candy, small themed gifts, and other neat prizes!  There are also quizzes that can be filled out for a chance to win end-of-summer gift cards to local restaurants and online stores.  When you sign up, you’ll receive a goody bag with the quizzes, a booklist, and other small favors to get you started.  In the goody bag is also a card for this blog!  Become a blog subscriber via email and be entered to win a special “Inspector Mallard” prize pack!

For Teens, each book read, movie watched, or CD listened to counts toward your chances to win the prizes listed above!  You also have a quiz in your goody bag that can be filled out for a chance to win end-of-summer gift cards to places like Gamestop, iTunes, and local restaurants.

While construction is still going on, please stop by the Reader’s Advisory desk in the East Wing to sign up and receive your goody bag and free first prize entry slip!

Any Questions?  Please call the library @ 847.259.6050 and ask for Reader’s Advisory, or comment on any of our blog posts!

Make Mine

Make Mine…Cozy Mystery

make-mine-cozy-mystery

A subgenre of crime fiction and mystery, cozy mysteries are for those readers who like the puzzle deciphering aspect of solving a crime, but not necessarily violence, profanity, or sex, which can be present in grittier mysteries and thrillers.

This genre is extremely popular in series, with readers being able to follow one amateur sleuth’s adventures over a long period of time.  The sleuth themselves is often an educated woman, and they tend to solve crimes in small, close-knit communities.

If cozies appeal to you, the following authors tend to write in this popular genre:

Catherine Aird
Susan Wittig Albert
Nancy Atherton
Stephanie Barron
M.C. Beaton
Laurien Berenson
Rhys Bowen
Lillian Jackson Braun
Simon Brett
Emily Brightwell
Rita Mae Brown
Laura Childs
Jill Churchill
Mary Daheim
Diane Mott Davidson
Aaron Elkins
Joanne Fluke
Dorothy Gilman
Carolyn Hart
Joan Hess
Georgette Heyer
Laurie R. King
Kate Kingsbury
Alexander McCall Smith
Sharyn McCrumb
Charlotte MacLeod
Tamar Myers
Katherine Hall Page
Elizabeth Peters
Ellis Peters
Nancy Pickard
Dorothy Sayers

Make Mine

Make Mine…Crime Fiction

make-mine-crime

Crime fiction can exist in several different genres, as well as having subgenres, but the common thread is that the book must have a crime as its driving force.  Whether the reader likes mystery, suspense, or thriller, crime fiction has a case to solve.

If crime fiction interests you, these authors tend to write in this genre:

James M. Cain
Raymond Chandler
Robert Crais
Chris Culver
Harlan Coben
Patricia Cornwell
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Tana French
Sue Grafton
Dashiell Hammett
James Hankins
John Harvey
P.D. James
Stieg Larsson
John Le Carre
Elmore Leonard
Henning Mankell
Jo Nesbø
Louise Penny
Ian Rankin
Kathy Reichs
Ruth Rendell
Michael Robotham
Dorothy Sayers
Mickey Spillane
Scott Turow
Barbara Vine
Displays, RA Programs

Summer Reading Displays – July

For the Summer Reading Program, Reader’s Advisory puts out different displays in our area that tie into the overarching summer theme.  For this summer’s theme, “Read to the Rhythm,” our book, music, and movie displays are all about music!  Anything that is on the cubes can be checked out, just like anything else in the library!

Right now, there are five different displays going.

The first book cube is a split between “Good Vibrations,” feel good fiction inspired by the Beach Boys, and “Killing Me Softly,” murder mysteries and thrillers inspired by Roberta Flack’s seminal hit.

The second book cube is a split between “Family Affair,” selections of family sagas, and “Secret Agent Man,” spy novels and thrillers inspired by Johnny Rivers’ classic tune.

The music display is “Sentimental Journey”, a collection of Big Band hits that will transport you back to the 1940s.

The movie display is “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” a selection of Christmas movies to tie in with a giveaway in honor of Christmas in July.

The teen display is “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It,” romantic coming of age novels inspired by Katy Perry’s hit song.

Come in and check out these displays for yourself; you can always take something home!

SRP display 9 - Good VibrationsSRP display 10 - Killing Me Softly SRP display 8 - Family AffairSRP display 7 - Secret Agent Man    SRP display 6 - Sentimental JourneySRP display 11 - I Kissed a Girl