Wednesday, September 1, 2010

About Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

September's Featured Book of the Month is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. If you thought you knew the tale of Cinderella, wait until you read the story of Iris, one of the "less attractive" step-sisters in this revised version of the fairy tale. Set in 17th-century Holland, Iris and her family experience a mixture of hardships and happiness as they move from the poor streets of Haarlem to the homes of the elite. In the end, Maguire challenges readers to think about beauty and ugliness, and who the real heroine of this fairy tale should be.

Let us know what you think! Pick up a copy at your local library or place a copy on hold through our catalog. You can also meet Gregory Maguire on Tuesday, September 21st in the Main Library Reading Garden Lounge.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Let's Discuss Three Cups of Tea

I hope you're enjoying Three Cups of Tea. I also hope that you got your tickets to see Greg Mortenson at Xavier University on September 29. There are no more tickets available for that event.

Let's get the discussion started!

-There is a telling passage about Mortenson’s change of direction at the start of the book: “One evening, he went to bed by a yak dung fire a mountaineer who’d lost his way, and one morning, by the time he’d shared a pot of butter tea with his hosts and laced up his boots, he’d become a humanitarian who’d found a meaningful path to follow for the rest of his life.” What made Mortenson particularly ripe for such a transformation?

-Relin gives a “warts and all” portrait of Mortenson, showing him as a hero but also as a flawed human being with some exasperating traits. Talk about how Relin chose to write about Mortenson’s character—his choice of details, his perspective, the way he constructs scenes. Is Mortenson someone you’d like to get to know, work with, or have as a neighbor or friend?

-At the heart of the book is a powerful but simple message: we each as individuals have the power to change the world, one cup of tea at a time. Yet the book powerfully dramatizes the obstacles in the way of this philosophy: bloody wars waged by huge armies, prejudice, religious extremism, cultural barriers. What do you think of the “one cup of tea at a time” philosophy? Do you think Mortenson’s vision can work for lasting and meaningful change?

-The Balti people are fierce yet extremely hospitable, kind yet rigid, determined to better themselves yet stuck in the past. Discuss your reactions to them and the other groups that Mortenson tries to help.

-Much of the book is a meditation on what it means to be a foreigner assimilating with another culture. Discuss your own experiences with foreign cultures—things that you have learned, mistakes you have made, misunderstandings you have endured.

-Did the book change your views toward Islam or Muslims? Consider the cleric Syed Abbas who implores Americans to “look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.” Discuss this statement. Has the book inspired you to learn more about the region?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

About Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute, founder of Pennies For Peace, and co-author of New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea which has sold over 4 million copies, been published in 47 countries, and a New York Times bestseller since its 2007 release, and Time Magazine Asia Book of The Year.

Mortenson was born in 1957, and grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. His father, Dempsey, founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, and mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany, where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.

In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield. To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.

While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school. From that rash promise, grew a humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls. He is one of few foreigners who has worked for sixteen years in rural villages where few foreigners go, and considered the ‘front lines’ of the ‘war on terror’

While not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 52, lives in Montana with his wife, Dr. Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, and two young children.

David Oliver Relin

In his work as an investigative journalist, Relin has long been committed to increasing awareness about critical human rights issues. His interviews with child soldiers have been included in Amnesty International reports, and his investigation into the way the INS abused children in its custody contributed to the reorganization of that agency.

David Oliver Relin is a graduate of Vassar and was awarded the prestigious Teaching/Writing Fellowship at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. After Iowa, he received a Michener Fellowship to support his groundbreaking 1992 bicycle trip the length of Vietnam. He spent two additional years reporting about Vietnam while based in the nation's former imperial capital. In addition to Vietnam and Pakistan, he has traveled to and reported from much of East Asia.

Relin is currently finishing a new book about blindness in the developing world, another book about food, a children’s book with the artist Amy Ruppel, and a novel about land mine survivors in Vietnam. He is a contributing editor for Parade and he has won dozens of national awards for his work as both an editor and an investigative reporter. He feels lucky to make his home in Portland, Oregon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

About Three Cups of Tea

August's Featured Book of the Month is Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time. It's the inspiring true story of Greg Mortenson and his campaign to build schools in some of the most dangerous and remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In 1993 Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water, or shelter he stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.

While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school. From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time.

Visit your local branch to check out a copy of the book and for more information, read the transcript of the Washington Post's online chat with Greg Mortenson.

After you're read the book, get your free tickets to see Greg Mortenson at the Cintas Center on September 29 at 7pm. A limited number of tickets are available at the Main Library and Green Township and Madeira branches starting on August 2. Tickets are availble on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit of two tickets per person. For more information about the event, visit
Xavier University's website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Let’s Discuss Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie!

Here are some discussion questions for you to think about. Please share what you thought about the book! Hope you’ve enjoyed this book as much as I have.

With her high level of knowledge, her erudition and her self-reliance, Flavia hardly seems your typical eleven-year-old girl. Or does she? Discuss Flavia and her personality, and how her character drives this novel. Can you think of other books that have used a similar protagonist?

With her excessive interest in poisons and revenge, it’s no surprise that Flavia is fascinated, not scared, as she watches the stranger die in her garden. In your view, is her dark matter-of-factness more refreshing or disturbing?

Flavia reminds us often about Harriet, the mother she never knew, and has many keepsakes that help her imagine what she was like. Do you think the real Harriet would have fit into Flavia’s mold?

Flavia’s distance from her father, the Colonel, is obvious, yet she loves him all the same. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel in a lasting way? Would Flavia want it to?

Like any scientist. Flavia expects her world to obey certain rules, and seems to be thrown off kilter when surprises occur. How much does she rely on the predictability of those around her, like her father and her sisters, in order to pursue her own interests (like solving the murder)?

Discussion questions are from the book’s publisher Random House.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

About Alan Bradley

Born in Toronto, Alan Bradley grew up with an education in electronic engineering. He worked at many radio and television stations and was a Director of Television Engineering in Saskatoon, SK, before he started writing during his early retirement. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir the Shoebox Bible. Bradley became involved in the Saskatoon writing community by becoming the first President of the Saskatoon Writers and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. His short story Meet Miss Mullen, received the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature. Bradley was one of the founding members of the Casebook of Saskatoon, which is a society that studies Sherlock Holmes. Here, he met Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, which led to the collaboration of their book Ms. Holmes of Baker Street, which theorizes that the famous detective could have been a woman. Most recently, Bradley has won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. He has written five more in the series, where Flavia is the main character.

The author lives in Malta, with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats.

Check out his website for more information on the author and the Flavia de Luce series.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

About The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The July Featured Book of the Month, the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is unlike most detective stories, being told from the perspective of an eleven year old girl who has a passion for poison! Flavia de Luce is a chemistry loving, bicycle riding, spirited and intelligent girl who stumbles upon peculiar events. Set in the 1950s, Flavia starts out her summer in an English village fighting with her two older sisters and brewing dangerous potions in her secret laboratory. Suddenly, life takes an unusual turn when a dead bird appears on their doorstep with a bright orange stamp on its beak. A strange red-headed man has an argument with her father and the next morning Flavia discovers the unknown man dying in their cucumber patch. Young girls would normally be frightened of a murder committed outside their own home, but Flavia’s interest burns with curiosity. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” The summer starts to look very promising to Flavia and she is determined to solve this murky mystery!

Alan Bradley presents a young heroine who is an engaging, quick-witted, and fearless sleuth. Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, this inventive detective story is a delightful read with many twists and turns.

Winner of the 2007 - Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger
Winner of the 2009 - Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel

Read an excerpt from NPR’s website

Check out the international versions of the book covers!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Here is a trailer to promote the book: