Great Reads Book Club – June’s Book

June 24, 2016

 

21853621In a video book trailer for The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah called it her personal favorite out of the books she had written. A veteran of romance genre, Hannah captivated her old readers and gained many new fans in the historical fiction genre after The Nightingale’s publication. The novel won many prestigious awards, such as the Goodreads Choice Award in 2015 and Library Journal’s Best Historical Fiction Award, but even more importantly, Kristin Hannah’s take on the Nazi-occupied France enthralled everyone in the Great Reads Book Club.

Hannah mentioned in one of her interviews that the idea for The Nightingale came to her several years ago while she was in a process of doing research for her other book, Winter Garden, which was set in Russia during World War II. While reading women’s war stories and diaries, Hannah came across the true story of a 19-year-old Belgian woman who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. Her name was Andrée De Jongh and her story inspired The Nightingale.

When the Wehrmacht troops entered and occupied France in 1940, they broke the spirit of the French people with scare tactics, malnourishment, and at times, outright savagery. Albeit their cruel actions weakened the French population both physically and mentally, many fought back by joining together in what became known as the French Resistance. Our protagonists, sisters Isabelle and Vianne, fought back against the Nazi occupation in their own ways. The courage and sacrifice these sisters displayed in the novel honors the real French men and women, who experienced tremendous suffering during that time period.

My favorite aspect of The Nightingale was the gradual transformation of Isabelle and Vianne. In the beginning of the novel, we find out that they were driven apart by unhealed childhood wounds and divergent personalities. Isabelle is rebellious and not afraid to express her true feelings, even in the face of certain harm and danger. Vianne’s main source of anxiety is the safety of her daughter in the face of German occupation and, therefore, she tries to follow the rules. The Great War transforms the sisters and, while driving them apart initially, ultimately brings them closer together. If you enjoy courageous, dynamic, three-dimensional characters and seeing what actions they would take when facing tremendous ordeals, The Nightingale is the book for you. Hannah writes in a compelling and emotionally-moving way and it’s truly hard to put this one down.

Ilya Kabirov

Great Reads Book Club – May’s Book

May 31, 2016

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The term “Easy Read” is subjective to the individual reader. What one reader might define as an “easy read”, another might mark as a “hard read”. It was agreed by everyone in the Great Reads Book Club that What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman was not an easy read. Despite the fact that Wiseman possesses an undisputed talent for narrating a good story, the topic under examination is not an easy one.

Wiseman wanted to tell a story of what happens to different people admitted to mental institutions. She accomplished this through two storylines. The first is of Izzy Stone, who grew up without a mother because she was in prison for shooting Izzy’s father ten years prior. Traveling from one foster home to another, Izzy was forced to become self-reliant from her early years. Now, Izzy is seventeen and her new foster parents have asked for Izzy’s help in cataloguing abandoned belongings in a local, deserted mental asylum. While working, Izzy discovers Clara Cartwright’s personal journal, which gives Izzy a new purpose in life.

The second plot line tells us a story of Clara Cartwright’s appalling experiences in a mental asylum. Clara was 18 in 1929, when her conservative father arranged a marriage for Clara with a man she did not love. Clara rejects the proposal and her furious parent sends her to a public asylum, in order to convince Clara to change her mind. Clara’s experiences in the asylum are truly awful and some readers might find those parts hard to read. One of the biggest points that sparked up an excellent conversation in the book club was doctor’s authority over patient’s body. Is it ok for a doctor to make any sort of changes to his patient’s body just because he is considered to be a professional or can a patient reject doctor’s orders?

What She Left Behind can be considered a historical novel, for a large portion of the story is unveiled in the past through the eyes of Clara Cartwright. However, the novel can appeal to readers of fiction set in present times. There is a plethora of topics in the book, relevant to today’s world and its problems, like abusive relationships, motherly interference in child’s growth, bullying, women’s rights, professional authority, and birth control. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys leisurely-paced, character-driven, thought-provoking literary fiction and schemes of parallel narratives.

Ilya Kabirov

Historical Non-Fiction

November 18, 2015

What’s New in Historical Non-Fiction?

November is going to be astounding in the field of historical non-fiction. Historians like  Robert Service, Ian Kershaw, along with a classicist Mary Beard, are considered to be the leading experts in their fields and they are all releasing a book! And not just any book, each work might be considered an author’s magnum opus. Make sure not to miss these!

Mary Beard – SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Publication Date: November 9, 2015

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SPQR is an acronym of a Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus, which means ‘the Senate and the People of Rome’. In her SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, a professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, Mary Beard brings the reader an enthralling tale of Rome’s birth. Previously, Beard wrote extensively on the topics of the Western cultural heritage and her invaluable expertise in the field is cherished by her colleagues and her readership.

Robert Service – The End of the Cold War: 1985-1991

Publication Date: November 10, 2015

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Robert Service is regarded with great respect in historical circles. Having published eleven other books prior to The End of Cold War, Service has been helping the reader to make sense of the complex Russian history since 1979. In his new book, Service explores the final six years of the Cold War period. Service possess a unique talent of presenting complex ideas in a simple, straightforward prose, which makes his books accessible to most adult readers. This one is high on my reading list!

Ian Kershaw – To Hell and Back: 1914-1949

Publication Date: November 17, 2015

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If Robert Service is a master of Russian history, Ian Kershaw is a colossus of German historical narrative. He is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert in the studies of Adolf Hitler and the Thrid Reich. Long-awaited To Hell and Back: 1914-1949 is Kershaw’s first publication in the last four years, which recreates the most destructive and tragic period in European, and perhaps, the world’s history.

-Ilya K


Japanese Fiction

October 22, 2015

Five Magnificent Tales from the Land of the Rising Sun

that aren’t written by Haruki Murakami
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When it comes to historical and cultural features, there is no place like Japan. Concealed from the rest of the world, Japan developed a unique culture, which eventually clashed with Western ideas. However, Japan’s case is unique because they were able to implement new western ideas and technologies, while preserving traditional values and culture. Any inquisitive reader will find it enriching to inquire into the Japanese works of fiction and this carefully compiled list can be a good start.
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OUT

by Natsuo Karin
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In Kirino’s valiant depiction of the contemporary Japanese society, the main object of the author’s careful examination is an ordinary woman, facing inconceivable adversities. Much like the characters in Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales, Kirino’s protagonists are asked a tough question: “What do you do if something awful happens to you?” In the case of Out’s heroine Masako, the dilemma is how to get away with her abusive husband’s murder.

Natsuo Kirino’s themes: multiple narratives, female protagonist, loneliness, dark and fast-moving plots.

What would Haruki say: “Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt.” Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood.

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The Woman in the Dunes

by Kobo Abe

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“One day in August a man disappeared,” begins a deceptively simple, yet exceedingly symbolic tale. The prominent themes of angst, dread, despair and absurdity make Abe’s work one of the most important existential novels to ever come out from Japan.

Kobo Abe’s themes: allegories, existentialism, sand, and surrealism.

What would Haruki say: “No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself.” Haruki Murakami, After the Quake.

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Kokoro

by Natsume Sōseki

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This list would not be complete without the main literary work by the celebrated Soseki. Rich in symbolism, the novel follows a friendship between a young college student and an elderly man he calls “Sensei”. There is no better introduction to modern Japanese literature than Kokoro.

Natsume Soseki’s themes: guilt, isolation, shame, and modernization of Japan.

What would Haruki say: “Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

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The Housekeeper and the Professor

by Yoko Ago

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He is a 64-year old professor, who can only retain new memories for 80 minutes and she is his housekeeper hired to take care of him. If you think that the premise sounds a lot like Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates, you’re right. Except this one might make you contemplate about the plot a little more than the movie.

Yoko Ogawa’s themes: memory loss, math, and living in the present.

What would Haruki say: “No matter how much suffering you went through, you never wanted to let go of those memories.” Haruki Murakami

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The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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This quiet character study probably does not belong on this list because, technically, Ishiguro is British and not Japanese. However, the man was born and spent the first 5 years of his life in the coastal town of Nagasaki, Japan and the reader can certainly feel that influence in his writing. The book was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989. That, along with a fact that Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books of all time, grants Ishiguro the final spot on my list.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s themes: dignity, politics, love, and memory.

What would Haruki say: “Life is not like water. Things in life don’t necessarily flow over the shortest possible route.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

-Ilya K


What’s New in Inspirational Historical Fiction

July 19, 2015

This fall sees some really fantastic titles coming out in inspirational fiction. Here are a few titles I am looking forward to

Secrets She Kept

by Cathy Gohlke

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Hannah Sterling’s estranged mother, Lieselotte, dies leaving a mysterious past. Hannah is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany she never knew. Thirty years earlier he was a high-ranking member of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter would have helped advance his career. Lieselotte is in love―but her choice is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Nazis. Secrets kept are revealed as both of these women’s lives unfold. Gohlke is a fantastic historical fiction author that is on my “must read” list.

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Luther and Katharina 

by Jody Hedlund

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This is the love story between 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora and Reformation leader Martin Luther.  Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. They couldn’t be more different. But as the world comes tumbling down around them, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love. Hedlund’s books are some of the most emotion filled I have ever read.

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The Mistress of Tall Acre 

by Laura Frantz

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The American Revolution is finally over and Sophie Menzies is hoping for better days to come.Her closest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy returns home, but the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, she agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre. But  a woman from the his past returns, threatening this new family and her position as mistress of Tall Acre. Frantz really had a talent for this time period!

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The Lost Heiress

by Roseanna White

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Brook Eden though raised in the palace of Monaco,is  British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. Her Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, so she leaves her adopted home to find her real family. What she finds is a mystery surrounding  her mother’s death. Her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. When her life is threatened, will she meet the same mysterious fate as her mother? White has written a great British historical with a twist of mystery and intrique.

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— Christine


Check Out These Recent Additions Of Horror Fiction To Our Collection!

April 26, 2015

The Fountaindale Public Library District has recently added some great books to our collection that are a must for horror fans. Here are a few that are worth checking out!

Last of the Albatwitches by Brian Keene

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The first story is The Witching TreeIn the woods of Pennsylvania there is a clearing with only one lone tree in the center. And from that tree, there comes only death. The second story is The Last of the AlbatwitchesThere’s an old legend about the forest surrounding Chickies Rock – how it’s the home to a reclusive race of Sasquatch-like creatures known as the Albatwitches. But after a recent murder, ex-Amish occult detective Levi Stoltzfus suspects there might be some truth to the stories. Brian Keene does it again!

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The Rising: Selected Scenes from the End of the World by Brian Keene

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Those familiar with Mr. Keene’s two zombie books, The Rising and City of the Dead should not miss this. This is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Rising, examining the arrival of the first zombie, the fall of mankind, and the terrifying events that occur after City of the Dead’s conclusion. This book is horror at its best, brutal and visceral.  If you are a fan of Keene’s zombie mythos, you cannot miss this book!

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Flu by Wayne Simmons

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A deadly strain of flu mutates, causing the deaths of millions throughout Ireland and the world. But the infected don’t stay dead for long, rising up to become flesh-eating monsters. And the virus is airborne. Anyone can become infected. Irish born author Wayne Simmons writes a riveting tale of zombies, the military and the people struggling to stay alive.  Read it with the lights on…… seriously…..

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The Infection by Craig DiLouie

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A mysterious virus suddenly strikes down millions. Three days later, its victims awake with a single purpose: spread the Infection. As the world lurches toward the apocalypse, some of the Infected continue to change, transforming into horrific monsters. Craig DiLouie recently wrote the fantastic Suffer the Children. This is one of his earlier works which is followed by the sequel, The Killing Floor, which we own as well.

 These authors are not as well-known as a Stephen King or a Dean Koontz, but once you read these you will want to read more by them. I have read these books and I can attest they are horror at its best.

— Christine


May Horror Book Club: Sympathy for the Devil??

April 25, 2015

joe-hill-horns-book-coverIg Perrish wakes up hungover after a night of drinking and “doing terrible things” to find two strange growths on his head. They look like horns, but things like that just don’t happen. In addition to being ugly and unsettling, the horns give Ig an equally ugly power, he can make people admit their innermost thoughts and deeds (intimate, embarrassing, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that details). But this bizarre turn of events is of particular use to Ig, who is still grieving over the horrible murder of his childhood sweetheart, an act that the entire town, including his family, believes he committed.

Please join us on Wednesday May 13th at 7pm for Horror Book Club when we will be discussing Horns by Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King. We meet in the board room and treats will be provided. If you saw the movie with Daniel Radcliffe, read the book!

If you are interested copies of the book are available at our third floor service desk or call 630-685-4176. Hope to see you there!

— Christine

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