March 2017 Book Discussions

dollbaby-jacketOn March 21 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will discuss the historical novel Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal. Ibby Bell travels to New Orleans to stay with her eccentric grandmother, and grows up during the 1960s. Here is my earlier review.

The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on March 28 to discuss The Empire of Deception, by Dean Jobb. This is the true story of a brilliant con man, Leo Koretz, whose empire-deception-jacketwealthy lifestyle, lavish parties, and generosity beguile his family, friends, and acquaintances into giving him millions of dollars to invest, much of it in non-existent oil wells in Bayano, Panama. Eventually his Ponzi scheme falls apart after investors visit Panama, but by then Leo is in disguise, still living extravagantly, in Nova Scotia.

The Crime Readers will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 to discuss Broken Harbor, by Tana French, a Dublin murder squad mystery. Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.

Copies of the books are available at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk.


The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

rachel jacketThe Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber

A moving, lyrically written novel about an African-American family homesteading in the Badlands in the early 20th century. Rachel grows up in Chicago, where her father worked in the stockyards. Rachel is working as a cook in Mrs. DuPree’s boardinghouse when Isaac DuPree, a Buffalo Soldier, comes home for a visit. He wants to get a homestead claim in South Dakota, and if he marries, he can get twice the land. Our story begins fourteen years later during a drought, when their well has gone almost dry along with their milk cow, and Rachel is pregnant, yet again. Isaac wants more land, while Rachel wants to worry less and for her children to have some sweetness in their life. A photograph of an African-American woman homesteader inspired the author, a Texan, to find out as much as she could about homesteading in the Badlands so that she could find Rachel’s voice. Rachel is a strong woman who struggles to be a good mother, and doesn’t always succeed. Some vividly drawn, quietly dramatic scenes are stunning. I was glad to be reminded about this award-winning first novel that I missed reading when it was published in 2010.


steelheart jacketSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson

In the first book in a science fiction trilogy for teens, life on Earth changed over a decade ago. A red star, called Calamity, suddenly appeared, and some people developed extraordinary powers, and became the Epics. David, 18, has been studying the powers and habits of Epics for ten years, since the day Steelheart killed David’s father in a bank. Steelheart is the ruler of Newcago, formerly Chicago, which he has coated in steel. Tunnels and rooms of steel are now underground. People don’t mind living underground because Nightwielder, another Epic, has blotted out the sun over Newcago. David hopes to join the Reckoners, an underground group secretly plotting against the Epics. Are all Epics evil? David thinks so, but his father believed differently. A quick, fast-paced read that will leave the reader waiting for the next book in the series.



insurgent jacketInsurgent by Veronica Roth

Allegiant, the third novel by Veronica Roth, goes on sale today, and is sure to be a young adult bestseller. I recently finished reading Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent. This dystopian series is set in a future Chicago, and the architecture of the Loop makes a good backdrop for the series. Tris Prior, who earlier picked the daredevil Dauntless faction over the humble Abnegation of her upbringing and over the intellectual Erudite, has an exciting scene in Insurgent when she and others cross the Chicago river from underneath a bridge, and try to break into the Erudite headquarters. But I didn’t find this book as interesting or exciting as Divergent. There are so many characters that the author expects you to remember from the first book, and I didn’t. Tris feels guilty for an act she was compelled to take in the first book, and is still mourning some of her family. Her boyfriend Tobias wishes Tris wouldn’t be so reckless, frequently risking her life, but Tris doesn’t understand her own motivations. In this book, the Factionless are introduced, and are shown to be other than the powerless outsiders Tris expected. The factions are still alternately fighting, being controlled by simulations, and working together. It’s not uncommon for middle books of a trilogy to be the weakest, and I hope Allegiant is everything Roth’s fans are hoping for.


Storm Front

storm front jacketStorm Front by Jim Butcher 

I was inspired to read Jim Butcher’s first book, entitled “Storm Front” in his Dresden Files Series, after a friend excitedly introduced me to the main character, Harry Dresden–wizard extraordinaire! I am now a fan and am sure to read more in this series. Thrillers with car chase scenes just don’t grab me the way a giant scorpion (“an orthopod version of Frankenstein’s monster”) chasing a wizard does. I read this book on audio and the narrator James Marsters sounds as smooth as Butcher’s portrayal of Dresden. While this book didn’t center too much on the Chicago landscape, the series overall does. I think I’ll enjoy that aspect of the other novels that I’ll eventually get to. Some of the most pivotal points in the story take place outside of the city at a lakefront home where Harry Dresden confronts dark magic in an effort to solve two converging mysteries. The first case is of a missing person and the second is of a baffling killing spree, in which the murderer left a distinct signature mark. Lieutenant Murphy of the Chicago PD Special Investigation Unit suspects that only Dresden, her trusted wizard friend and private investigative colleague, can offer insight to this grisly case.  

Other suggested audio reads of dark fantasy that has lighthearted, witty humor mixed in are Neil Gaiman’s “Anansi Boys,” read by Lenny Henry who is superb at speaking with multiple dialects. Jim Dale’s reading of the J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” audiobook series is also intense and versatile. 


Ghost Story

Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher

Harry was dead, to begin with. Like Jacob Marley in The Christmas Carol, Harry is sent back to earth as a ghost, to solve his own murder, and because his friends are in danger. Six months ago, Harry was last seen near an island in Lake Michigan, but his body and murderer were never found. Harry, a wizard, protected Chicago, and things have gone downhill since his death. Karrin Murphy, former police officer, is even working with gangster Marcone. Harry’s apprentice Molly may be the vengeful Rag Lady, and it’s still snowing in May. Something is very wrong. While trying to learn the rules and tricks of being a ghost, Harry befriends Sir Stuart, the ghost of an 18th century marine, and Fitz, a young gang member who can hear his voice. Harry’s cat, Mister, ectomancer Mortimer, Bob the skull, and Molly can see Harry’s ghost, but everyone else is reluctant to believe it’s really him. We learn the power of memories to a ghost, retrace part of Harry’s childhood, and relive his anguish at the death of Susan, the mother of his daughter Maggie. Molly, Mortimer, and Dr. Butters have hidden depths, his fairy godmother and an archangel have unexpected advice, and the adventure has plenty of twists and turns. There’s even some humor. This is an excellent entry in the urban fantasy series that starts with Storm Front. If you enjoy audiobooks, John Glover narrates this book very well.