Monday, March 10, 2014

RA Training Session / Wednesday, March 5, 2014 / Six Degrees Technique

A number of great Six Degrees lists were presented and discussed during our meeting last week. Scroll down to find those lists already posted on the blog. 

More fun came at the end of the meeting with everyone participating in a 'Group Think' six degrees brainstorming session! Titles were thrown out, connections were made, and the result was a great on-the-spot Six Degrees list ... :-)

Impromptu ‘Group Think’ Six Degrees Exercise

1. How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman – a woman wakes up not trusting her husband.

2. Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson - the main character wakes up every day and 
doesn't remember anything then gradually begins to wonder if things are being hidden from her.

3. ‘50 First Dates’ feature film - due to a car accident, a young woman can’t remember anything from day to day. Her family tries to keep her from being traumatized (again) by pretending each day is the same until a young man becomes romantically interested.

4. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – a story of family trauma dealing with a wife and mother on life support after an accident and the husband’s discovery of her involvement in secret affair.

5. A Perfect Murder - feature film with Michael Douglas, Viggo Mortensen and Gwyneth Paltrow; a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, where the husband learns of his wife’s secret affair and hires someone to kill her.

6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – when his wife disappears on their 5th anniversary, the husband is assumed to have killed her especially when her friends tell the police she was afraid of him and had been keeping secrets.

Titles and connections courtesy of:
Lisa K (KR), Sheri K (DE), Sue D (MK), and Lucy L (the RAT Queen)

Six Degrees of Reading / Creating a List

Looking for ways to remember connections between titles so you can help customers with readers' advisory questions? How about creating your own Six Degrees list ...

Creating your very own Six Degrees of Reading list!

Start with a title you have read or know well and write a brief description; at least one sentence but no more than two. Include in the description an aspect of that title which appealed to you.

Although it can be, the connection does not have to be the genre, author, or main character. The aspect can be anything: a secondary character’s occupation, a location mentioned in the title, etc. Be creative! Go crazy and see where it can take your list! J

Connect that title to a second title using the same appeal aspect from the first. Then take an aspect from the second title, something different than the one you used for the first title and connect it to a third title.

Connect the third title to a fourth title using a different aspect for each title to connect to the following title. Continue on until you get to the sixth and final title, for an annotated list of six titles.

Then, and this is the hard part, figure out how the sixth title can link back to the first title on your list!  J

HINT: Choose the 1st and 6th titles FIRST and make sure they connect to each other! Some might call this cheating but I like to think of it as PLANNING AHEAD!  J

My Six Degrees of Reading List







Free Bird (Song) / Lynyrd Skynyrd / Six Degrees of Music

While I was working on my own Six Degrees lists to bring to the next RA Training session, my husband asked me what I was doing. Once I explained the idea, he couldn't resist and came up with his own 'twist' to the Six Degrees technique ...  :-)


1.  Free Bird – Allen Collins and Ronnie van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

2.  Smoke on the Water – Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillian, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice (Deep Purple)

3.  Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton

4.  Life’s Been Good – Joe Walsh

5.  Layla – Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon (Derek and the Dominos)

6.  Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Jimi Hendrix and Ronnie Van Zant both died before the age of 30. (Allen Collins was seriously injured in the plane crash which killed Van Zant.)

List courtesy of Richard L, husband of The RAT Queen

Born to Run / Christopher McDougall / Six Degrees of Mixed Media

Wondering how far you could take mixing books with films, I had lots of fun creating a Six Degrees list inspired by a RAT Nonfiction benchmark title from Round 4 ...  :-)


In Born to Run: a Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall investigates ultra-marathon athletes, the science of running, and the reclusive Tarahumara Indians, the fastest runners in the world.

The Tarahumara tribe live in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, which brought to mind Humphrey Bogart and the film Treasure of the Sierra Madre, from a book by B. Traven.

Hepburn’s book reminded me of ... White Hunter, Black Heart, a Clint Eastwood film based on Peter Viertel’s book, inspired by events which took place while director John Huston and others were on safari during the filming of ‘The African Queen.’

Thinking about trips to Africa lead to ... Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible about a harsh evangelical Baptist missionary, Nathan Price, who takes his wife and his four daughters on a mission to the Belgian Congo...

Missionaries brought to mind the movie ‘Chariots of Fire about Eric Liddell, Scottish missionary, and Harold Abrahams, Cambridge student, who compete in the 1924 Olympics as runners for Great Britain (based on William J. Weatherby’s book).

The film ‘Chariots of Fire’ is ultimately about the joy and science of running which leads back to McDougall’s Born to Run ...

List courtesy of The RAT Queen

A Moveable Feast / Ernest Hemingway / Six Degrees of Reading


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – contains stories about his life as a young man in Paris in the 1920’s.

The movie, Midnight in Paris, is a fantasy about the main character’s dreams of living in Paris in the 1920’s. In this movie, the main character meets Scott Fitzgerald.

Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, a novel about the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanon, in which there are several descriptions of lavish parties on Long Island.

Fictional characters, Gatsby and Buchanon, appear as neighbors to the main characters in Christopher Bohjalian’s The Double Bind which also takes place in Long Island.

A recipe for a drink named Long Island Tea is in the nonfiction book, See, Mix, Drink by Brian Murphy along with many other recipes for alcoholic beverages including those containing whiskey.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is written from Ernest Hemingway’s first wife’s point of view and references Mr. Hemingway’s habit of consuming large amounts of whiskey. The book takes place during the 1920’s in Paris.

List courtesy of Sheri K (DE)

French Kiss (Movie) / Meg Ryan (Actress) / Six Degrees of Film


French Kiss - A woman flies to France to confront her straying fiancé, but gets into trouble when the charming crook seated next to her uses her for smuggling a stolen necklace.

A Fish Called Wanda - In London, four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, hide their true identities and then try to double-cross each other for the loot.

True Lies - Harry Tasker is a secret agent for the United States Government. For years, he has kept his job from his wife and leads a double life, but is forced to reveal his identity when his wife is swept into the world of espionage.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith - A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other.

RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) - When his peaceful life and new budding romance is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants while pursuing the “woman of his dreams”.

Kate & Leopold -   A modern day scientist finds a rip in the fabric of time near the Brooklyn Bridge.  Leopold --a man living in the 1870s-- follows the scientist back through the time gap to present day and meets the “woman of his dreams”.  Time proves to be an obstacle.  

*Which links back to French Kiss through common themes of mismatched couples brought together against all odds/fate and actress Meg Ryan.

List courtesy of Lisa K (KR)

Gallipoli (Movie) / Peter Weir (Director) / Six Degrees of Film

The Six Degrees technique can be applied to any format of material, not just to books. 


 A discussion of movies made by and starring Australians began with ...

Gallipoli - Two Australian mates face the tragic mismanagement of war when they are sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I.

Breaker Morant - Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers.

Picnic at Hanging Rock - On Valentine's Day 1900, in Victoria, Australia, three students and a teacher from Appleyard College disappear during a class visit to Hanging Rock.

Bad Day at Black Rock - Shortly after World War II, a one handed stranger comes to a tiny town possessing a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary.

The Fugitive - Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused of murdering his wife, must find the real killer (a one-armed man) while being the target of a nationwide manhunt.

Witness - A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book, goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.

Witness is directed by Peter Weir who also directed Gallipoli.

List courtesy of The RAT Queen

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / Jesse Andrews / Six Degrees of Reading


1. Greg has clique-jumped his way through all of high school. His only consistent friend is Earl with whom he has nothing in common except a love of film. Greg’s mother insists that Greg befriend Rachel, a girl who is dying from leukemia. Greg’s uncomfortable new friendship with Rachel is awkward, touching, and hilarious in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

2. Eleanor, a poverty stricken outcast at a new school and Park, a teen trying to find himself in the daily monotony of life cross paths on the bus and find hope and healing through their relationship in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

3. Four orphans are selected by a cruel nobleman to see who has the ability to impersonate a long-lost prince in The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.

4. Trash by Andy Mulligan follows Raphael, Gordo, and Rat as they sort through the mystery of an important find they discovered while digging through a trash dump in a third-world country.

5. Tyrell is living in a homeless shelter with his mother and brother trying desperately to stay out of the cycle of poverty and helplessness that sent his father to jail in Coe Booth’s Tyrell.

6. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Junior is too smart and too driven to stay in his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation but once he leaves to go to the “fancy” school in Reardon he feels like an outcast in both worlds. Junior’s humor and intelligence, however, inspires hope and relays his resiliency in finding himself outside his comfort zone.

List courtesy of Maggie M (SP)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart / Six Degrees of Reading


1. In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Frankie secretly infiltrates her boyfriend’s all male secret society with hilarious and thought-provoking consequences. Frankie’s story gives a funny and interesting high school feminist perspective.

2. In Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Ismae escapes a brutal marriage to find herself in the safety of… Assassin nuns?

3. A plane crashes on a deserted island and the survivors are beauty pageant contestants struggling to survive in the elements in Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens.

4. In Cinder by Marissa Meyers, Part cyborg and societal outcast, Cinder, inexplicably becomes involved with the handsome Prince Kai. But will he accept her and all of her flaws?

5. Tally is about to turn sixteen and in this dystopian society that means she gets to be operated on to become the perfect physical specimen. Tally is so excited to become a “Pretty” until something happens to make her question the norm in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.

6. Barbie is viewed as a model of female empowerment, a standard of unattainable beauty, just a toy for children and all kinds of things in between. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone delves into the different societal perceptions of Barbie as well as the history of her and her creator, American business woman, Ruth Handler.

List courtesy of Maggie M (SP)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Water Witch: A Novel / Juliet Dark / Six Degrees of Reading

The Water Witch by Juliet Dark
Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature takes a job in a small town of New York state. She moves into a Victorian home that has been taken over by a demonic force.

   which leads to

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
  Nora Fischer a doctoral student takes a walk and ends up in a different world. She falls in love and is soon married to the man of her dreams. That is when things begin to go off-track. Nora escapes and finds herself being an apprentice to a magician named Aruendriel.

   which leads to

A Kiss of Shadows (Meredith Gentry) by Laurell K. Hamilton
   Meredith is the High Princess of Faerie. She is avoiding the job her aunt wants her to perform: to be a constant companion to the most beautiful immortal men of the the world.

   which leads to

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
   Nicholas Flamel is the greatest alchemyst in the world and has eternal life in the bargain. He must keep The Book of Abraham, the Mage hidden and protected at all costs.

   which leads to

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
   Diana Bishop a scholar and descendant of witches discovers an alchemical manuscript.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
   A young woman finds a book in her father's library that leads to the discovery of an evil that has been hunted for centuries.

Snow in August / Pete Hamill / Six Degrees of Reading

The Snow in August by Pete Hamill
In 1947, a young boy befriends an immigrant Rabbi in New York City. They summon a golem to confront the violence in their lives.

    which leads to

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley
  Set towards the end of World War II, Evelyn Roe finds a body buried in the clay of her yard. It begins to form itself into Evelyn's vision of Adam.

   which leads to

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
   It is 1946 and Laura McAllan is struggling to raise her family on a Mississippi Delta farm. Two men return from World War II to help with the farm and face what happened in combat and prejudice at home.

   which leads to

I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes
   Two American women begin a correspondence during World War II, helping each other with the absence of the men in their lives. The letters help them deal with loss, prejudice and the joy of living again.

     which leads to

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
   In 1912 Elspeth Dunn a poet in Scotland receives a fan letter from David Graham from New York City. A romance develops and World War I intervenes. In 1940 Margaret, Elspeth's daughter discovers the trove of letters and their secrets.

     which leads to

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
   Set in 1899 New York a golem is left without a master and a jinni is released from his bottle. They become best friends and navigate the unfamiliar world of New York.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Forgotten Waltz/ Anne Enright /263 pages/ Literary Fiction

The forgotten waltz /You might enjoy Anne Enright's "The Forgotten Waltz" if you like complicated issues with no easy answers. She has written a tale of emotional turbulence recounting an extra marital affair between a younger woman and a middle aged family man.

The book is written in the first person narrative of Gina the younger married woman. The book is written in a non-linear fashion which unsettles the reader not knowing what to expect next. The story's backdrop is Ireland during the economic downturn of 2008 affecting real estate and the notion of entitlement. Enright has crafted a tale of splintered lives produced in the aftermath of an affair that doesn't lead to a "happily ever after" ending, but one of real life consequences.

Similar titles that are stylistically complex, character driven, and delves into memories, extramarital relations, and Irish angst.

The marriage plot by  Eugenides, Jeffrey; The Infinities by Banville, John ; and Slow Man by Coetzee, J.M.

The Snow Child: A Novel / Eowyn Ivey / 388 pgs / Literary/Mainstream

Jack and Mabel live in the wilderness of Alaska in the 1920s. They moved there after the death of their baby. It is a lonely and hard existence. So much so the two of them have stopped talking to each other and to themselves. During a gentle snowstorm one night, the two of them build a snowman and dress it as a child. The next morning the snowman has been destroyed but there are footprints leading off into the deep woods. What follows isn't a straight forward fairy tale but there are enough elements to make the reader think there may be some magic left in the world after all.

Based on a Russian fairy tale, this debut novel is a stunner. The descriptions of Alaska and how cold is it (Hello, Polar Vortex!) help the reader understand the isolation of the place. What the snow person is and what she becomes is left up to the reader. Jack and Mabel have some neighbors that are part comic relief and part teacher. When these families begin to break down the barriers both mental and physical they begin a trek down a trail full of love and heartache. Excellent to read with a roaring fire going in the fireplace.

Six Degrees of Reading: No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel, Mary Coin by Marisa Silver.

Swamplandia!: A Novel / Karen Russell / 316 pgs / Literary/Mainstream genre

  Meet the Bigtree alligator wrestling tribe of Swamplandia! Florida. The Chief is the master planner of this Southern Florida attraction. His wife Hilola has just died from cancer and their children are coping the best they know how. Their oldest Kiwi is rebelling against life as he knows it, Osceola has begun communing with ghosts while Ava is planning on saving the park and taking her mother's place as the headliner of the show. But the park is failing, people stop coming and the bills are mounting. What is a family to do?

  This family is as messed up as they come. The children have never been to public school and are woefully socially inept. The father lives inside his own mind and doesn't recognize reality needs some serious attention. Kiwi leaves to work at a place that feels like Disney gone wrong, Osceola thinks a ghost wants to marry her and disappears one night into the swamp. Ava seems to be the only normal one but falls into a dream world where she can make everything good again. Not a happy book. There is some gorgeous writing and descriptions of Florida that take your breath away. A serious and dogged literary read.

   Six degrees of reading: The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson, Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Tragedy of ArthurA Novel / Arthur Phillips / 368 pages / Literary Fiction

Front Cover
The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force
from “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post). Its doomed hero
is Arthur Phillips, a young novelist struggling with a con artist father who works
wonders of deception. Imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, 
Arthur’s father reveals a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: The Tragedy 
of Arthur, a previously unknown play by William Shakespeare. Arthur and his twin
sister inherit their father’s mission: to see the manuscript published and 
acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity . . .unless it’s their father’s
last great con. By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel, which includes
Shakespeare’s (?) lost play in its entirety, brilliantly subverts our notions of truth,
fiction, genius, and identity, as the two Arthurs—the novelist and the ancient king--
play out their strangely intertwined fates. 

Comparable titles suggested:   Big Fish by Daniel Wallace and Theft by Peter Carey.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Library staff from all over have been tweeting their TOP 10 titles for 2013 over the last 10 days. Check out today's post on EarlyWord to see more details about the 3rd Annual #libfaves Tweetfest which ends today at 11:00 PM Central time.

Listing title, author and a description for each title in 140 characters was a challenge but lots of fun. Below are my Top 10 reads for 2013, on Twitter using the hashtag #libfaves13:

# 10 - SCARLET by Marissa Meyer. Love this revamped, futuristic fairy tale series; 2nd book in 'Lunar Chronicles' and sequel to CINDER!!
# 9 - LONGBOURN by Jo Baker, gives the servants view of the events taking place during Austen's Pride & Prejudice!
# 8 - THE RETURNED by Jason Mott, fascinated by Harold & Lucille's joy & grief at the 'return' of 8-yr old son Jacob
# 7 - FURIES OF CALDERON by Jim Butcher, read by Kate Reading; love Dresden Files, how could I have missed this series!
# 6 - A romance: LORD AND LADY SPY by Shana Galen; 1st in fun series about misunderstandings of married 19th Century British spies
# 5 - READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Weaton. Wheaton's voice is perfect for this & he gets to cite himself too! :-)
# 4 - THE OUTCASTS by Kathleen Kent; a Western alternately follows a prostitute & Texas policeman east towards a meeting in NewOrleans
# 3 - THE THINKING WOMAN'S GUIDE TO REAL MAGIC by Emily Croy Barker; 1st in new Fantasy series, D Harkness meets Pride & Prejudice
# 2 - LEXICON by Max Barry; Suspense; secret society of 'Poets' manipulate people via language & persuasion, makes you wonder...

and just tweeted this evening, my favorite read for 2013 ...
# 1 - COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden is back from dead; cried at end screaming "Nooooo!" - eager for next book!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wide Open / Deborah Coates / 304 pages / Horror

Sergeant Hallie Michaels serving in Afghanistan was killed in action. She was brought back to life with the ability to see ghosts.  There is also news her sister has died back in South Dakota. In returning to her town Hallie finds the past isn't always done and finished. What exactly did happen to her sister and why has the town suddenly stopped answering questions? And what are the ghosts doing?

 A novel with many open ended questions about what the town/people are hiding. There is a bad guy but in my opinion not a fully developed one. What evil does he control and why? The deputy sheriff keeps popping up and is so laconic it is frustrating. What is it with all the elliptical sentences? An interesting tale with great potential but ultimately exasperating. The beginning of a series: Deep Down is second installment. 

 Some novels with similar themes: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett and The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan.  

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling / Michael Boccacino / 239 pages / Horror

A cryptic Gothic horror novel by a debut novelist has a young widow take a governess job with a family dealing with a recent death and a house full of secrets. A deal has been made with an evil being with consequences impacting the present and the future. Will Charlotte figure out the mysteries and keep the family safe?

Not a book for the seasoned horror reader but good for paranormal fans. Charlotte is a believable character who has to make some difficult decisions. The manor house with its hidden rooms and revealing cupboards is a great character in itself.

 Some comparable novels are: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield and A Spirited Manor by Kate Danley. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 7

Let's take a look at a specific scene in the novel ...

In one of the most poignant and powerful moments in the book, one of the interrogators remembers the way in which his father explained life in North Korea: "Even if we walked this path side by side, he said, we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands." What does the quote imply about the reality of living in such a repressive society? How does it speak to humanness in the fact of inhumanity?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find previous discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son.

Monday, November 18, 2013

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 6

What about the writing style used by Johnson ...

What do you feel the first-person narrative contributed to the story? Did you feel more or less removed from a world so closely guarded?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find previous discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 5

Let's continue talking about the make-up of the novel ...

How do the propaganda chapters, written as if spoken from a loud-speaker, play into your reading of the novel?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find previous discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 4

Let's talk about the make-up of the novel ...

Discuss the differences between the first part of the novel, "The Biography of Jun Do," and the second, "The Confessions of Commander Ga."

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find previous discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Literary Fiction Book Discussion - Change of Venue

There has been a change in location for the upcoming Literary Fiction book discussion meeting on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

The discussion of the benchmark title, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, will now be held at the Spencer Road Branch in Houck Meeting Room 212 starting at 9:00 AM.

Please bring a copy of the book with you to the meeting. If you cannot come for the meeting next Wednesday morning, you can still join the discussion of the Literary Fiction benchmark title by using the Comments box at the bottom of each question as it is posted on the blog.

So join in the fun and let us know what you think about The Orphan Master's Son!  :-)

NOTE: At the end of the Wednesday discussion, I will have Literary Fiction book talk title suggestions for the next RA Training meeting. For those following along online, the list of those suggestions will also be posted on the blog under the Book Talk Titles tab on Wednesday, November 20th.

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 3

Now let's talk about the use of characters in the book.

How did you feel about the inclusion of Kim Jong II as a central character in the book? How would you say Johnson depicts him? Were you surprised by his portrayal?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find previous discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LITERARY FICTION Book Discussion - Question # 2

Yes, this is a Literary Fiction title but let's talk about genre ...

The Orphan Master's Son has been characterized as a thriller, a love story, and a political dystopia. How would you classify the novel in terms of genre? How do you think each of these genres manifests itself in the book?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

Scroll down through earlier posts to find the previous discussion question for The Orphan Master's Son.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


It's time to begin the online book discussion for our Literary Fiction title. The benchmark for this genre is The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winner.

I will be posting a question each day from now, Wednesday, November 13 through Tuesday, November 19. The full list of discussion questions for this title will be compiled and posted under the Book Discussions tab on Wednesday, November 20.

So here's the first question:

How much did you know about North Korea before reading The Orphan Master's Son? How has it changed your perspective on life there?

Please enter your responses in the COMMENTS box so everyone can follow the discussion.

NOTE: All discussion questions for The Orphan Master's Son come from the "Readers' Guide' in the back of the Random House Trade Paperback edition (pages 455-456).

Genre Study Program - LITERARY FICTION

The next genre (or non-genre, if you will) we will be covering is Literary Fiction! This is the area of fiction with the most awards and reviews as well as the type of titles which appear on many Best of ... lists. Literary titles also are often the book of choice for discussion groups.

Our benchmark title for Literary Fiction is Adam Johnson's award-winning The Orphan Master's Son. Johnson's book won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and was also an ALA Notable Books: Fiction category choice for 2013. It covers a very timely topic, taking place and dealing with life in North Korea under the regime of Kim Jong II.

In an article for NoveList, titled Getting Up to Speed in Literary Fiction, David Carr describes the genre as follows: "Literary Fiction renders the life experiences and personal perspectives of characters in the midst of complex situations and conflict over values and relationships. Tensions typically involve finding ways to respond and cope, and to understand the origins of those problems. In Literary Fiction, resolutions do not come easily, and the reading experience often evokes related issues of character, family, ethics, memory, faith, and forgiveness."

The Online book discussion for the Literary Fiction benchmark will begin on Wednesday, November 13 and run through Tuesday, November 19. Watch for a question to be posted on the blog each day. The book discussion meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 20 in Room 112 at the General Administration office.

For more information about The Orphan Master's Son look under the Benchmarks tab.

Book Talks Meeting - HORROR

On Wednesday, October 30 (the day before Halloween!) we had our first book talks meeting. Everyone came to talk about the 'other' Horror title they read for this section of the genre study program. Book talks give everyone a chance to learn more about the genre by hearing about other titles representative of that genre. It also gives everyone a chance to practice their book talking skills! :-)

The titles talked about were:

Joyland by Stephen King - Classic Stephen King, similar to his early titles. Listened to it on CD and really enjoyed the narration by Michael Kelly.

Red Rain by R. L. Stine - Yes, the guy who wrote the Goosebumps books! Blurb on the back makes it sound more scary than it is. Might be a good suggestion for someone new to Horror or as an Adult / YA crossover.

Let the Dead Sleep by Heather Graham - First in a series. Some readers might consider it more of a paranormal romance with a Southern setting rather than Horror.

Breed by Chase Novak - Enjoyed the book, although at first wasn't sure would be able to keep reading because the combination of genetic engineering and infertility was creepy. But stuck with the story and glad of it.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates - A murder mystery with some witchcraft and/or an ancient evil and an interesting female leader character. Never really learned what the title meant though ... :-)

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino - Another interesting female lead and premise but not sure if it completely followed through on it's promise.

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice - Rice has created another character, like her vampire Lestat, who glories in being a monster; this time - a werewolf!

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King - LOVED IT! The return of Danny Torrance from The Stand, all grown up but still dealing with his 'gift.' Only complaint - that it had to end! :-)

A few of the annotations for these Horror titles have already been posted by the participants. Scroll down to see them and keep watching for the rest! :-)

The next genre, Literary Fiction, was announced and copies of the benchmark title, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, were available. Information about this title can be found by clicking on the Benchmarks tab.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare / Simone St. James / 318 Pages / Horror Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James is a tale of ghost hunters, murder and vengeance in 1922 England.

Sarah Piper signs on as a temporary assistant to aid wealthy, handsome ghost hunter Alistair Gellis in flushing out an angry spirit inhabiting her former employer's barn who will only speak to women. Will Sarah be able to withstand Maddy's horrific powers and find out what is driving her anger?

Not only for fans of Horror, Maddy Clare will also appeal to fans of suspense, mystery, and "Ghost Hunter" TV shows. Similar works are An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

Let the Dead Sleep / Heather Graham / 331 Pages / Horror

Heather Graham begins a new series named McCafferty and Quinn set in post Katrina New Orleans.

Danni McCafferty didn't know her recently deceased father was actively involved in the fight to keep the underworld of crime and evil from overtaking their businesses and way of life in New Orleans. Danni teams up with Michael Quinn, a  former super jock and associate of her father to fight an evil spirit awakened from a de Medici tomb. Graham delivers a tame story rather than a thriller but readers will want to see where Danni and Michael go next in their budding romance.

Heather Graham brings together the elements of romance, the paranormal/occult and Southern life . Other similar works include: Blue Dahlia (In the Garden), by Nora Roberts and  Fat Tuesday by Sandra Dallas. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Breed / Chase Novak / 310 Pages / Horror Breed, by Chase Novak, is a darkly disturbing, cautionary tale about infertility and the horrifying consequences of continued genetic engineering in man's never-ending quest to outwit Mother Nature.

When they have exhausted all possible treatments in the U.S., Leslie and Alex Twisden journey to Slovenia to visit a mysterious doctor who has achieved startling success for other couples in their infertility support group - although many who undergo his treatments suffer an unspeakable side-effect; the desire to eat their children!

Breed will appeal to those who like creepy, intricately plotted horror stories and possibly also to those who enjoy mystery and suspense. Similar works include: The Literary Werewolf: an anthology and The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice.