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Book Discussions at the Library May 2014 (The Portal group now has a topic.)

April 24, 2014 by Reader's Connection

Let’s wish a Happy Birthday to Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group. The group turned two years of age in April.

In May, as announced below, they will meet off-site (i.e., not at Glendale Library) on Memorial Day weekend.


The May discussions begin with Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, which will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, May 1st at 10:30 a.m.

The Greatest GenerationBrokaw defines “the greatest generation” as American citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. The vehicle used to define the generation further is the stories told by a cross section of men and women throughout the country. The approximately 50 stories are listed in the table of contents under eight topics: Ordinary People; Homefront; Heroes; Women in Uniform and Out; Shame; Love, Marriage and Commitment; Famous People; and the Arena. The individuals are brought to life by photographs within each chapter. — School Library Journal


The Scarlet LetterThe Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library, is reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

The group, led by the fearless Anja Petrakopoulos, will meet on every May Friday, the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th, from 10:00 to 11:30.

Attendees who wish to read will take turns at it. There will be discussion, a poem will be read, refreshments will be eaten.

No one will emerge with a scarlet letter on her or his breast. Unless it was already there at 10:00 a.m.


Jonathan Eller, Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury studies at IUPUI, will be on hand at the Franklin Road Library to help discuss Bradbury’s classic The Martian Chronicles on Monday, May 5th from at 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

The Martian Chronicles

Humankind has conquered Mars, or is it the other way around? Originally published as short stories and novellas in the 1940s, Ray Bradbury’s classic works are collected in this grand master edition. Here, Mars is a world of great new beginnings for Earth, full of wonder and an ancient, dying race. It is a place to protect and preserve–from humanity’s destructive nature. Bradbury’s nostalgia for the future has a haunting quality, and his lyrical writing and innovative ideas still captivate. — Library Journal Newsletter




The Wayne Library will host a discussion of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood on Monday, May 5th at 6:30 p.m.

The Year of the FloodNever one to rest on her laurels, famed Canadian author Atwood redeems the word sequel with this brilliant return to the nightmarish future first envisioned in Oryx and Crake. Contrary to expectations, the waterless flood, a biological disaster predicted by a fringe religious group, actually arrives. In its wake, the survivors must rely on their wits to get by, all the while reflecting on what went wrong. Atwood wins major style points here for her framing device, the liturgical year of the God’s Gardeners sect. Readers who enjoy suspense will also appreciate the story’s shifting viewpoint and nonlinear time line, which result in the gradual revelation of key events and character relationships . . . VERDICT Another win for Atwood. — Library Journal


Alice's Adventures in WonderlandI, the Mad Hatter, will be on hand at Central Library to help discuss Lewis Carroll’s journalistic masterpiece Alice Invades a Perfectly Respectable Tea-Party to Which No One, But No One, Has Invited Her–a work that is still riveting after all these years.

Our round table discussion will be held on Tuesday, May 6th at 6:00 p.m., on that large tea-doughnut that hangs in front of Central Library. You can help yourselves to tea, though of course there won’t be any. Count on the March Hare and I for stimulating. The Dormouse is likely to sleep, but he’ll probably say more than this silly little bird.

Blogger’s note: The discussion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will take place wherever the Central discussions usually take place.

Joe Bastianich’s Restaurant Man will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, May 8th at 1:30 p.m.

Restaurant ManA frank and funny memoir of a successful New York restaurateur. Distinctly Italian with a twist of Queens, Bastianich displays a palpable love of good Italian food and wine throughout his humorous reflections on how he became one of the best-known restaurant owners in New York City. From his early days as a dishwasher and busboy in his parents’ Italian restaurant (his mother is famed chef Lidia Bastianich), the author learned the basics of restaurant management–e.g., “your margins are three times your cost on everything”; “you have to appear to be generous, but you have to be inherently a cheap f___ to make it work”; “no bottle of wine costs more than five dollars to make.” After a stint in Wall Street and a wild time in Italy working in restaurants and vineyards, Bastianich returned to New York, unable to deny his “biological imperative.” Using the maxims his father had taught him, he launched his own restaurant, Becco, and from there the direction was only up . . . Despite his liberal use of the f-bomb, the author’s easygoing voice and substantial knowledge of real Italian food (not the spaghetti-and-meatballs kind) will lure booklovers and food lovers alike. — Kirkus Reviews


Mardi Jo Link’s memoir Bootstrapper : From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, May 8th at 1:30 p.m.

Bootstrapper : From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan FarmIn a heart-wrenching, heartwarming, and invigorating memoir, author and farmer Link struggles following her divorce to hold on to the life she had built. Link is not, as her ex-husband had taunted, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but she is resilient, resourceful, and determined in her efforts to save the farm and make a living for herself and her three sons. Although they are facing distressingly difficult times, they soldier on through calamities of all sizes, often finding unorthodox solutions to such unusual problems as a broken freezer that stores all their winter meat, an overly amorous rooster, and a Christmas tree utterly lacking in the proper equipment. Link’s pride in her sons and the life they have made shines throughout the book and is obviously well deserved. Neither sugarcoated nor wallowing in self-pity, Link’s storytelling is as tough, honest, and unyielding as one would expect from a Michigan farmer. Her account, told with humor and panache, of pulling oneself up after disappointment and loss will appeal to the bootstrapper in all of us. — Booklist


The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, a novel by Ayana Mathis, will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, May 12th at 6:00 p.m.

The Twelve Tribes of HattieThis was not the life smart and lovely Hattie expected to live after fleeing Jim Crow Georgia in 1923 and settling in Philadelphia. Two years later, married (at 16) to an irresponsible man, she is poor, cold, hungry, and desperate as her twin babies sicken with pneumonia. Writing with stunning authority, clarity, and courage, debut novelist Mathis pivots forward in time, spotlighting intensely dramatic episodes in the lives of Hattie’s nine subsequent children (and one grandchild to make the “twelve tribes”), galvanizing crises that expose the crushed dreams and anguished legacy of the Great Migration. While Hattie grows more stoic with each birth and each betrayal, her children struggle with her survival strategies, which they perceive as her coldness and anger . . . Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty. — Booklist


Trice Hickman’s Breaking All My Rules will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, May 12th at 6:30 p.m.

Breaking All My RulesThis novel, about a successful D.C. businesswoman who falls for a guy from the wrong side of town, entertains . . . Though Erica Stanford comes from wealth, owns her own body-care brand, and is drop-dead gorgeous, love has been elusive since she dumped her fiancé. She also suffers from nightmares triggered by her father getting shot on her 10th birthday. Though she feels an immediate attachment to Jerome Kimbrough, a garbage man with a questionable past, who is now a loving father working toward having his own business, their backgrounds keep getting in the way of love. Jerome wonders if Erica is slumming, or worse, cheating, thanks to her ex-fiancé’s frequent reappearances. Erica’s best friend Ashley floats the idea that Jerome might be a stalker, and uses Erica’s romance to voice her own misgivings about dating a white man. — Publishers Weekly


Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, May 19th at 6:30 p.m.

Bel CantoA Third World terrorist group holds hostage a prominent group of politicians, executives and a famous American soprano who had the bad fortune to be entertaining the wrong audience at the wrong time . . . Sound familiar? We have all seen similar set-ups in countless Hollywood action films. But Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto will defy every expectation you bring to this rich book. Her story has nothing in common with Die Hard or Air Force One . . .  Every stereotype of the genre is over-turned—first of all, because Ann Patchett has no interest in writing an action novel, or even a suspense novel. But also because her most interesting developments take place in the inner lives of her characters. Imagine Henry James tackling a Tom Clancy scenario, with a dose of Lost in Translation added in for good measure, and you will get some idea of the piquant flavor of this odd, but endearing, book. — Ted Gioia, The New Canon


Readers of the Nora Library book discussion group will join readers from the Jordan YMCA to discuss David Rosenfelt’s Dogtripping : 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure on Monday, May 19th at 6:30 p.m.

Dogtripping : 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country AdventureAndy Carpenter, the lawyer-hero of several of Rosenfelt’s crime novels, is an unabashed dog lover who will go out on a limb to rescue a mutt in trouble. He gets that from his creator, who has amassed a large family of rescued dogs over the years–25 of them, to be exact, all of whom, as recounted in this frequently very funny book, were recently piled into three RVs and moved cross-country, from California to Maine. But this isn’t just the story of the world’s furriest road trip; it’s also the saga of how Rosenfelt met the woman who would become his wife and who, with her passion for dogs, changed Rosenfelt’s life in ways he couldn’t possibly have imagined. Fans of the Carpenter novels will recognize the author’s familiar writing style: relaxed and lightly funny but serious when the moment calls for it (as when Tara, Rosenfelt’s wife’s dog, dies: those pages will bring a tear to a dog-lover’s eyes). Spirited and absolutely absorbing reading for fans of canine capers–both fictional and otherwise. — Booklist


John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, May 19th at 6:30 p.m.

The Fault in Our StarsHe’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited. Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his–based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. — Kirkus Reviews


Robert K. Massie’s Catherine the Great : Portrait of a Woman will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, May 20th at 10:15 a.m.

Catherine the Great : Portrait of a WomanThe Pulitzer-winning biographer of Nicholas and Alexandra and of Peter the Great, Massie now relates the life of a minor German princess, Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst, who became Empress Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796). She was related through her ambitious mother to notable European royalty; her husband-to-be, the Russian grand duke Peter, was the only living grandson of Peter the Great. As Massie relates, during her disastrous marriage to Peter, Catherine bore three children by three different lovers, and she and Peter were controlled by Peter’s all-powerful aunt, Empress Elizabeth, who took physical possession of Catherine’s firstborn, Paul. Six months into her husband’s incompetent reign as Peter III, Catherine, 33, who had always believed herself superior to her husband, dethroned him, but probably did not plan his subsequent murder, though, Massie writes, a shadow of suspicion hung over her. Confident, cultured, and witty, Catherine avoided excesses of personal power and ruled as a benevolent despot. Magnifying the towering achievements of Peter the Great, she imported European culture into Russia, from philosophy to medicine, education, architecture, and art. Effectively utilizing Catherine’s own memoirs, Massie once again delivers a masterful, intimate, and tantalizing portrait of a majestic monarch. — Publishers Weekly


The Glendale Library will be closed on Sunday, May 25th, for Memorial Day Weekend. Please contact the library (275-4410) prior to that date to ask where Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will have its meeting that day.

May’s topics include: Constructed Languages, Alien & Real.
Fantasy Maps


On Tuesday, May 27th, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., the Poetry Reading Program at Spades Park Library will be led once again by Patrick Dugan.

Call the branch at 275-4520 to find out which poet is going to be read this month.


Also at Spades Park (a busy branch): Alice Munro’s story collection Runaway will be discussed on Wednesday, May 28th at 6:00 p.m.

RunawayThe eight stories in Runaway all bear single-word titles, but the simplicity ends there. Each has a woman or women at its center, women of different ages and circumstances, navigating through worlds ranging from the 1920s to today. Love, or sometimes romantic notions masquerading as love, is generally at the fore, but the stories always go deeper. These are lives filled with mistakes, missteps and misapprehensions, yet they are essentially ordinary lives. The characters’ petty embarrassments and life-altering misjudgments could be our own. A common Munro device is to begin in the now and hurtle back to the then. The story “Passion” begins, “Not so long ago, Grace went looking for the Traverses’ summer house in the Ottawa Valley.” It is a gentle, nostalgic opening that belies the deception and death that took place in that house 40 years before. An undercurrent of violence also drives the haunting title story, about a young wife who lacks the will to break free from an abusive husband . . . her stories refuse to go away. They almost beg for a second or third reading, and can linger in your memory, sometimes for years, sometimes forever. That Munro can achieve this extraordinary feat within the limits of the short-story form, and do so time and time again, is nothing short of astonishing. — BookPage


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