*NOTE date change
Please join us! Feel free to drop in and join us — a long term commitment not necessary.
Book discussion is open to everyone interested in sharing their reading experience with others.
Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at 6 pm in the Bottom Shelf Room.
Books are selected by the entire group based on suitability for discussion and interest to the group as well as availability of copies in the MORE library. Each type of genre and literary form is considered in terms of its own excellence and the audience for which it is intended. Suggestions from readers are welcome.
You can click a book cover to order the book from the MORE Library Catalog!
October 2 at 6:00 Spilled Blood by Brian Freeman
Please join us for this special event as Brian Freeman leads our discussion of his book Spilled Blood!
The two Minnesota towns couldn’t be more different: in affluent Barron, a powerful and secretive scientific research corporation enriches its residents, while downriver in blue-collar St. Croix, victims of that company’s carcinogenic waste struggle to survive. The bad blood between the communities escalates into open warfare when the beautiful Ashlynn, daughter of the corporation’s president, is found shot dead–and a St. Croix girl, Olivia Hawk, is accused of the crime. Olivia’s father, Christopher, a Minneapolis lawyer, comes to defend his daughter and uncovers some ugly truths that endanger the residents of both towns.
November 6 at 6:00 Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.
December 4 at 6:00 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
January 8* at 6:00 A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton
*Note date change due to the New Year holiday.
Alice Goodwin lives on a farm in Wisconsin with her husband and daughters and works part-time at the local school as a nurse. When a friend and neighbor leaves her two-year-old daughter in Alice’s care, a moment’s inattention leads to the child’s death. This singularly tragic event triggers a series of other occurrences that will rock the tiny community where Alice lives and undermine everything Alice holds dear. -from MORE catalog
Reviews From Past Reads
September 2014 – Orphan Train
Orphan Train was very well received by our book club. Most of us had never heard of the orphan trains before, so the book was informative as well as entertaining. However, the parents of one of our members lived next door to a man who had been a child on one of the trains, and it was interesting to hear about a connection that brought the book closer to home for us.
One thing we liked was the interesting characters that Ms. Baker Kline created. Many of us felt a connection to one or another of the orphans in the narrative, which pulled us into the story. A few members commented that some of the characters didn’t feel as well-developed as they could have been, but overall this wasn’t a major complaint. Another negative mentioned in our discussion was that the end of the story seemed hurried and that some of us would have liked to have known more about what happened to Vivian during the time between her young adulthood and when she became an elderly woman. One person mentioned that it almost seemed like there should be a sequel.
Our discussion topics ranged from the current foster care system to the importance that possessions play in our lives. Many of us were able to relate our own struggles with purging or preserving memorabilia.
All ratings were between 3.5 and 4.5 with an average of 3.89.
August 2014 – Wild:From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
There were strong opinions expressed about Wild when we discussed it as a group. A few people thought that Strayed gave her readers too much information–for example, incidents from her past, her health and drug problems, and romantic relationships. This brought up an interesting discussion about how Facebook and other social media have changed opinions of what is an appropriate amount of openness in a person’s private life and how different generations view privacy. Many also felt strongly that Strayed was foolish to set out on this journey being as ill-prepared as she was. We noted that there were dozens of times she could have been killed or seriously injured. She didn’t seem to take the danger seriously enough. Despite the risks, however, one member pointed out that this hike mostly likely saved Strayed’s life because it didn’t seem likely that she would have broken the downward spiral of her life without doing something drastic like this.
Other topics that came up during our discussion: fear, drug abuse, self-destructive behavior, and favorite books. Strayed read (and burned) several books over the course of her hike, and she lists them in the back for those who might be interested.
One person in the group rated this book a 5, but all other ratings ranged from 2.5 to 3.5. Our average was 3.33.
July 2014 – And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed was a popular choice with our group. Although there were several story lines that sometimes were confusing, one of us commented that the author did a good job of recapping past events so that you could piece together the narrative without too much trouble. The most frequent complaint was that the stories didn’t seem to obviously fit together. Some characters might have been lifted from the book without damaging the story. However, we came to the consensus that Hosseini is a master at creating multi-dimensional characters. Even the “villains” had a few good qualities, just as is often the case in real life.
Another thing that set this book apart from other books was the way the author handled the setting. Much of the book takes place in Afghanistan, but there’s little mention of the Taliban. Several of our members thought that it was refreshing to read other perspectives on a country that’s been in the news so much over the past decade.
We discussed a theme that seemed to arise frequently: in many of the stories a character is caring for a disabled friend or family member. It was interesting to see how each character responded to the sacrifices that she or he had to make under those circumstances.
Our rating: 4/5.
June 2014 – The Other Typist
We came to a consensus that this book, especially the end, is confusing and disorientating. One woman commented, “All I know is that I don’t have a clue what happened.” That seemed representative of the feeling of the group as a whole. Because of the vague ending, we formed our own ideas about what happened, splitting ourselves pretty evenly between two different theories.
Many don’t enjoy unreliable narrators, and their scores reflected that preference. The member who enjoyed the book the least thought that it pulled too much from other books, such as Double Bind (Chris Bohjalian) and The Great Gatsby. If you’ve read and enjoyed those books, you may appreciate this one as well.
One of our members commented as we left, “The best part of reading this book was the discussion we had.” We talked about subjects ranging from dissociative identity disorder to the reliability of photographs as evidence. In the end, almost everyone gave a mediocre 3 of 5 rating to this book.
May 2014 – Aimless Love
We have a wide range of tastes in our group, and that extends to our enjoyment of poetry. Several are frequent or avid poetry readers and a couple don’t read it at all. However, most of us were able to appreciate Billy Collins’ poems collected in Aimless Love.
Frequent comments were that these poems are “accessible” and “enjoyable, even for someone who doesn’t read poetry.” Many of them were so humorous that we laughed as we read them out loud. One group member commented that she appreciated that she didn’t feel like she had to dissect every poem in order to find its meaning. Another checked out the audio version of the book–featuring Billy Collins himself reading the poems–and she highly recommended it!
Some of our favorites:
“To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl”
“This Little Piggy Went to Market”
“The Suggestion Box”
“Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant”
A couple of our members rated the book lower because they didn’t like poetry at all or preferred it to be more structured and metered. In the end, our average rating was 3.80.
April 2014 -The Circle
The group thought The Circle was a thought-provoking story, although the author could have accomplished his mission in fewer pages. We discussed how some of the privacy and social media issues that are addressed in this book might already be sneaking up on us, especially in the area of medicine. A couple from the group recommended the book to their friends because it made them think about issues of privacy and the Internet. In the end, though, we all gave it a mediocre rating because we figured out the point of the story early on and the characters were not believable. Average score: 2.8 out of 5.
March- A Tale For the Time Being
The group had mixed feelings about this book. All agreed it was a unique writing style. Some didn’t care for the supernatural time travel. Others thought that that added to the book along with the Zen and the science. Most liked the character of the grandmother the best. It was an interesting different type of read. The ratings varied between 2.5 and 4.5 with the average of 3.5.
“”A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.” In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace–and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox–possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.”– Provided by publisher.
February- Five Days At Memorial
The group thought this book was a difficult read about a tragic event. They also thought it was very well written and researched. Comments included: they were glad they read it, they wouldn’t have read it without it being a book group read, and they hadn’t realized what was going on during this time period. Everyone agreed that the book deserved a 4.5 book rating (and we usually are not so unanimous!).
Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina– and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice. After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. Fink unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
Overall the group gave the book a 3.5 because it was so well done but we do not recommend it since it was so (fill in adjectives!).
“Meeting at an Amsterdam restaurant for dinner, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons’ act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and revealed the extent to which each family will go to protect those they love.”–From NoveList.
December -The Gamal by Ciaran Collins
It was a small group of us on the 19th to discuss The Gamal. Gamal is an Irish slang word for village idiot. Charlie, the Gamal, is the main character and author of the book. Charlie is autistic and dealing with depression and knowledge of a horrible wrong. As it turns out the story is a new updated to Ireland, version of Romeo and Juliet. The writing is wandering at best and hard to decipher at worst. So some people loved the wandering writing and others found it totally unreadable. All agreed it was an interesting creative way to write a book. The group gave it an average of 3.5; which the highest rating a 4.5 and the lowest a 1.0.
“Meet Charlie. People think he’s crazy. But he’s not. People think he’s stupid. But he’s not. People think he’s innocent– He’s the Gamal. Charlie has a story to tell, about his best friends Sinéad and James and the bad things that happened. But he can’t tell it yet, at least not till he’s worked out where the beginning is. Because is the beginning long ago when Sinéad first spoke up for him after Charlie got in trouble at school for the millionth time? Or was it later, when Sinéad and James followed the music and found each other? Or was it later still on that terrible night when something unspeakable happened after closing time and someone chose to turn a blind eye? Charlie has promised Dr Quinn he’ll write 1,000 words a day, but it’s hard to know which words to write. And which secrets to tell. This is the story of the dark heart of an Irish village, of how daring to be different can be dangerous and how there is nothing a person will not do for love” — from author’s web page.
November – Coal Run
This book was well liked in the book discussion. People especially mentioned the strong characterization of the novel and the sense of place. There was some discussion of the stereotypic -ness of the characters and how one character seemed to be in the book for comic relief. The richness of the descriptions and the strong emotionalism of the story line left many wanting to “read the next one”. This book is not part of a series, although the author has written two other books in the same locale. The group liked this book and gave it 4.5 books.
Coal Run is a community of ghosts and memories. After a mining explosion took the lives of so many men and transformed their families, the reverberations are still being felt in the generation of survivors thirty years later. Narrator Ivan Zoschenko, the local deputy, spends a week seemingly preparing for an old friend’s imminent release from prison. In doing so, Ivan introduces a rich cast of characters. And during the events of this week, Ivan confronts his demons and reveals himself to be a man whose conscience is burdened by a long-held and shocking secret that must be reckoned with.
October-Dry Grass of August
Page Turners as a group liked this book. It wasn’t a wow book like the Cellist of Sarajevo but, in it’s own way it seemed like a good representation of North Carolina life in 1954. This book reminded some of “The Help” except from the point of view of a 13 year old. Some thought the characterization was pretty flat — the good people were all good and the bad; all bad. Overall the book was liked.
On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there–cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence. –Barnesandnoble.com
September – The Cellist of Sarajevo
The Page Turners group loved this book. We felt the author has created a really good novel of war and it’s effects on people — the choices they had to make and how they tried to survive. The group rated this book as 5 books!
While a cellist plays at the site of a mortar attack to commemorate the deaths of twenty-two friends and neighbors, two other men set out in search of bread and water to keep themselves alive, and a woman sniper secretly protects the life of the cellist as her army becomes increasingly threatening.
August 1 -The Burgess Boys
Some of the page turners did not enjoy this book at all. They found none of the characters likable. Others found at least one of characters likable — although we all agreed that they all were flawed. Also others thought the story line at the ending pretty unbelievable….
“Catalyzed by a nephew’s thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives.”
July- Secret Scripture
Overall this book was well liked by the group. We felt the author had done a good job portraying the life of the two main characters and having the climax at the end of the book, wrapping up everything in the last 10 pages made for an interesting twist. That being said, some thought the book dragged getting to those last 10 pages and it was somewhat of a confusing read with memories being in almost a dream state.
When she was a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life. As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards of her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients to decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne’s life from what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.
This book was an interesting read about commune life. Several members of our group had strong negative opinions about commune life and the book in general. The gaps in the storyline — years passing — made the story difficult to follow. Other group members found the story an interesting look at a “what could have been story line for their own lives”.
We were snowed out in May! So Arcadia was discussed as the June book!
“In a haunting story of the American dream, Bit, born in a back-to-nature commune in 1970s New York State, must come to grips with the outside world when the commune eventually fails.”–From Novelist.
Thursday – NW
Ha! This book was not well liked by the Page Turners group. We thought the writing style was very fragmented and the story line was minimal. We wondered if the writing style was to reflect the fragmented, disconnected life style of the people in NW London. Also noticed that the number 37 was mentioned often in the book and that the author was 37 when she wrote this. Overall we only gave this book and some of us couldn’t even finish the book….
The PageTurners book club discussed the children’s fiction book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio last week. The book was unanimously declared “heartwarming” with many of the club sharing that they both laughed and cried. Our group rating was a solid 4 out of 5.
We’re looking forward to discussing The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, NW by Zadie Smith, and Arcadia by Lauren Groff over the next few months. New members are always welcome, so please join us the fiorst Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.
The Rice Lake Public Library sends our sincere condolences to the people and families affected by the violence at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Even though we are so far away geographically from Connecticut, this terrible tragedy affects us all.
Here are some tips on how to cope:
Be aware of your feelings and thoughts. Anxiety, worry, sadness and anger are all expected reactions to violent events such as school shootings. It is important, however, that you understand your feelings and thoughts.
Do not make assumptions. Each individual has different reactions and responses to a traumatic event. It is important that you do not make assumptions about other’s thoughts and feelings.
Engage in open communication.
Expect emotions. Expect that everyone will be experiencing a number of emotions and that feelings will fluctuate from day to day.
Validate emotions. A great variety of feelings can be expected as a result of school violence. For example, you can say “I can see that you are very worried about going back to school”, “I know how confused you are about all this. I feel the same way” or “I can see that you are very sad.”
Be honest and open. Sharing your own feelings may help to normalize the experiences and reactions of others.
Keep it in perspective.
Discuss the signs of violence. Have conversations with others about signs of violence in your surroundings. Keep in mind that although warning signs may exist, not everyone with warning signs will engage in aggressive or violent behaviors. Some of the signs include a history of threatening behaviors, violence or aggression, difficulty controlling anger and frustration, and regular run-ins with the law. Other warning signs include significant withdrawal from social activities and friends, a history of rejection or victimization through bullying, and a sense of loneliness and alienation. However, be sure to communicate that not everyone they encounter with these signs is potentially a danger to them.
Be proactive. Research the safety procedures and plans at your child’s school with your children. Read information on the school’s website or handbook and ask questions of the administration.
Continue with your goals and plans.
Use and model coping skills. Use relaxation techniques that have worked for you in the past. Relaxation techniques include taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm and visualizing a safe and calm place, such as a sandy beach or pleasurable memory.
Give back to your community with volunteering.
Seek professional guidance.
Seek social support.
Some of you may be wondering how to discuss this violence with children. The National Association of School Psychologists offer a series of suggestions for doing so. Click here for this handout. Here are some important points to emphasize:
Schools are safe places. School staff work with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).
We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
Don’t dwell on the worst possibilities. Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect our school.
Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness.
Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.
Tips and topics provided by the National Association of School Psychologists.
New Books of December 2012
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah’s Book Club 2.0)
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
By Joy Fielding
Due to a last-minute change in plans, a group of unlikely traveling companions finds themselves on a camping trip in the Adirondacks. They include the soon-to-be-divorced Valerie; her oddball friends, Melissa and James; her moody teenage daughter, Brianne; and Val’s estranged husband’s fiancée, Jennifer. What Val and her companions don’t know is that a pair of crazed killers is wreaking havoc in the very same woods. When an elderly couple is found slaughtered and Brianne goes missing, Val finds herself in a nightmare much worse than anything she could have anticipated. She was half-expecting it to be the trip from hell, but what she never could have predicted was that this impromptu little excursion might be the last she ever takes.
A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts
By Sebastian Faulks
Five interconnected stories form the heart of this book. The links between Jones’ stories are subtle and curious; a name might re-appear in a different context, or a location will feature again, but at a different time or with different people. This novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities. From the pain and drama of these highly particular lives emerges a mysterious consolation: the chance to feel your heart beat in someone else’s life. Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection – some key to understanding what makes us the people we become.
Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See
Greyson Todd is a successful Hollywood studio executive who leaves his wife and young daughter and for a decade travels the world giving free reign to the bipolar disorder he’s been forced to keep hidden for almost 20 years. The novel intricately weaves together three timelines: the story of Greyson’s travels (Rome, Israel, Santiago, Thailand, Uganda); the progressive unraveling of his own father seen through Greyson’s eyes as a child; and the intimacies and estrangements of his marriage. The entire narrative unfolds in the time it takes him to undergo twelve 30-second electroshock treatments in a New York psychiatric ward.
Promises to Keep
by Malcolm Macdonald
Despite concerns on the national and international stage, life for the ambitious nine young families who live in the Dower House, including concentration camp survivor Felix Breit, his wife Angela and their four children, is good. But when a menacing figure from Angela’s past turns up – a former death camp guard who was especially brutal to her – it becomes clear that both Angela and Felix will have to face up to the truth of their German heritage if they are to embrace their English future.
Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids
By Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings wants to find out if mother and father always know best. Yes, all those years you were told not to sit too close to the television (you’ll hurt your eyes!) or swallow your gum (it stays in your stomach for seven years!) or crack your knuckles (arthritis!) are called into question by our country’s leading trivia guru. Jennings separates myth from fact to debunk a wide variety of parental edicts: no swimming after meals, sit up straight, don’t talk to strangers, and so on. Armed with medical case histories, scientific findings, and even the occasional experiment on himself (or his kids), Jennings exposes countless examples of parental wisdom run amok. Whether you’re a parent who wants to know what you can stop worrying about or a kid (of any age) looking to say, “I told you so,” this is the anti–helicopter parenting book you’ve been waiting for.
Holidays in December
Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! These are three major holidays in December. The library has something to offer you regardless of which event you celebrate.
Hanukkah is the first holiday celebrated in December. It is held from December 8 – 16, this year. This holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over the Greek Syrians in 165 BC. According to Jewish tradition, the triumphant Jews entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the service of their God. But when they entered the temple, they found only enough lamp oil to last one night, but the oil somehow managed to burn for the whole eight days it took to go in search for more oil.
Christmas is the next holiday celebrated in December. It is held on December 25. This Christian holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Kwanzaa is the final holiday celebrated in December. It is celebrated on December 26. Kwanzaa, which means “first fruit of the harvest” in Swahili, is a time to focus on the traditional African values of family. It is based upon the celebration of seven principles or beliefs called the Nguzo Saba and was created by Ron Karenga in 1966 to celebrate African-American heritage.
Happy holidays, everyone! We wish you the best. Everyone is always welcome at the Rice Lake Public Library.