About Tom

I am an Adult Services Associate at the Warrenville Public Library. I am always reading something, usually contemporary fiction, classics, historical fiction, poetry or memoirs. In my free time I enjoy reading (of course), traveling, and watching old films.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Book– The Dutch House is the latest novel by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth. The Dutch House follows siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy as they navigate a complicated childhood that includes a mysterious, absent mother, a distant but loving father, and a stereotypical evil stepmother straight out of a fairytale. At the center is the “Dutch House,” a beautiful, extravagant, old home where the siblings grew up. The house and the events that transpire reverberate with, and profoundly shape, the siblings’ adulthood.

This is my first Ann Patchett novel. I admire her confidence, which expresses itself in the controlled and well-structured narrative. The Dutch House is not action-packed, but builds its strength on the insights of family, memory, loss and the power of a place. Recommended for fans of contemporary and domestic fiction, The Dutch House is available for digital download, in Large and regular print, and audiobook, narrated by Tom Hanks!

Parasite (2019)

Cover image for Kisaengch'ung = ParasiteFilm- By now you’ve heard of Parasite, the South Korean film that won four statuettes at the 2020 Academy Awards, in addition to numerous other accolades throughout the 2019-2020 awards season. In addition to Bong Joon-ho won winning the Oscar for Best Director, Parasite became the first film in a foreign language to snag the Oscar for Best Picture. Parasite focuses on two families whose financial situations are extreme opposites. The Kim family are all  unemployed and live in a semi-basement, scraping by, making their living folding pizza boxes for a local restaurant. The wealthy Park family, live in a beautiful home and can afford hired help, such as a housemaid, chauffeur and private tutors for their children. By a stroke of good luck, an educated friend of Ki-woo (son in the Kim family) recommends him an English tutor job for the Park’s teenage daughter, Da-hye. From there, through deception and intricate planning, each member of the Kim family gains employment within the Park family, while keeping their familial ties a secret. Everything goes smoothly…for a while, at least. To say more would spoil a film full of twists and startling revelations.

Parasite is successful, nail-biting work of suspense and a reflection on the gulf between the “haves” and “have-nots,” a theme that feels as relevant here in the United States, as it does in South Korea. There are moments of humor and discomfort throughout the film which will no doubt speak to audiences all over the world. As Bong Joon-ho said at the Golden Globes: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Parasite is definitely one of those films.

Books on App

Thanks to Goodreads, our Books on App monthly book discussion is the next best thing to meeting at the local tap house to share thoughts on the pick of the month.

Goodreads is a free social media site that allows readers to connect with each other and share book recommendations, ratings and reviews. Each month we will select a book to read and post discussion questions related to the book on Goodreads.

The discussions are open until the end of each month, so you can read the book and contribute to the discussion on your own time. Books are available digitally through Hoopla or OverDrive/Libby with your WPLD library card. Non-members can participate but will need to secure the book through other sources.

All you need to participate in the conversation is a Goodreads account. Once you have created a Goodreads account, search for “WPLD Books on App” or simply follow this link to join: WPLD Books on App. 

Our book for July is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Get more information about Books on App in our Events Calendar. Find Coraline in our catalog.

Make Books on App a part of your summer reading adventure—in July and August you can add these titles to your reading logs and participate in our Read for a Cause summer reading event.

August’s Books on App selection is Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt.

We hope to see you in Goodreads!

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Cover image for Last True Poets of the Sea, TheBook- Sixteen year old Violet is spending the summer in Lyric, Maine the town founded by her ancestors, following her brother’s suicide attempt and struggles with her unstable, hard-partying lifestyle. While staying with her uncle and working at the local aquarium, Violet meets Orion and is attracted to his intelligence and devotion to marine life. Through Orion, Violet befriends other local teens, including Liv, whose fascination with Lyric’s history is the basis for another powerful and complex relationship. While navigating her new friendships and complicated past, Violet also embarks on a mission to find the sunken Lyric, a legendary shipwreck of which Violet’s great-great-great grandmother was the sole survivor.

The Last True Poets of the Sea is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but also a coming-of-age romance and adventure story that examines identity, family dynamics and mental illness. The complex exploration of important issues makes this a young adult novel that many adults of all ages will appreciate.

The Last True Poets of the Sea is available now on eAudiobook for instant download on Hoopla.

 

Staying Productive While Working Remotely

Online Learning Database—Available 24/7.

As we continue to make our way together through the phases of the Restore Illinois Plan, you may still need some help dealing with the challenges of working from home and maintaining a work/life balance. Lynda.com from LinkedIn is a free resource available to WPLD members that provides access to articles, videos and courses to help improve professional skills while working from home.

For many companies and employees, working from home is a relatively new experience. Lynda.com has courses that directly address creating a productive work space and communicating effectively with co-workers from a distance. A good introduction to this topic is “Tips for Working Remotely”, presented by Todd Dewett, who discusses productivity at home and the common challenges faced by those still somewhat new to working remotely.

To find out more about why Lynda.com is a go-to resource when it comes to developing business skills in several industries, search its extensive list of courses and video tutorials available for free to WPLD members at: Lynda.com.

If you have questions about Lynda.com or any of our online databases, please email adultservices@warrenville.com.

 

The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel

Cover image for THE MIRROR & THE LIGHTBook- The Mirror & the Light is Hilary Mantel’s latest and long awaited conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which began with Wolf Hall and followed up by Bring Up the Bodies. The trilogy covers the historical events of King Henry VIII: his obsession with producing a male heir, break with Catholicism, and eventual marriages to six different women–three of whom meet tragic ends (two by beheading and the other dying following childbirth). Modern readers may not be familiar with Thomas Cromwell, who for about eight years served as Henry’s most trusted advisor. Often portrayed negatively in works such as A Man for All Seasons by George Bernard Shaw, Mantel’s books cast Cromwell more sympathetically and tell the story from his point of view. Spoiler alert! The Mirror & the Light opens with the events following the beheading of Anne Boylen and Cromwell’s dealings with an increasingly desperate and unstable King, while seeking his successive brides.

The close study of Cromwell’s character and state craft at the court of Henry VIII make The Mirror & the Light, as well as the other two books, great. The trilogy might well be described as a sixteenth-century The West Wing. Given how gripping that show is, that tells you all you need to know about Mantel’s impeccable prose. Though The Mirror & the Light is at times dense and slow moving, the quality of her writing and sense of foreboding kept me reading. I especially admired how the King’s inevitable displeasure with Cromwell and the Court’s plotting against him are slowly revealed, then culminate in a highly memorable, ending scene. The Wolf Hall trilogy will appeal to fans of historical fiction and those who enjoy stories of political machinations and betrayal.

The Wolf Hall trilogy is available on Overdrive for digital download on eBook and eAudiobook formats.

Columbus (2017)

Cover image for ColumbusMovieColumbus film centers around Jin (John Cho) who is stranded in Columbus, Indiana after his father, an scholar of architecture has fallen into a coma. Jin’s relationship with his father means that he knows a lot about architecture, but is at best ambivalent about the unique structures that populate Columbus. Casey (Halley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who works at the local library, who on the other hand, is fascinated by her hometown’s architecture and its place in history. Though their world experiences differ, the two meet by chance, and what develops is a relationship built on mutual dissatisfaction.

Director Kogonada utilizes the town’s architecture in each frame, letting the various buildings and structures inform his shots. The screenplay has a lot to say about architecture, and the way he balances these more informative aspects of the script with the emotionally resonant moments is masterful. Columbus is a character study of the town, as much as it is of Jin and Casey.

I was moved not only by what I saw on screen, but also by what was withheld from me as a viewer by the script and the editing. This is a film about two fragile people that never becomes maudlin or melodramatic and maintains its balance from beginning to end.

True Grit by Charles Portis

Book – Many will be familiar with the classic western True Grit thanks to the well-known film adaptations, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne and the second in  2010 directed by the Cohen Brothers. While Charles Portis’s novel is straightforward and at times predictable, what makes True Grit so good is the dialogue and the characters, especially the narrator, thirteen-year old Mattie Ross. Mattie’s pluck and perseverance make her one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. True Grit’s other lead Rooster Cogburn, is a crotchety and perpetually drunk US marshal hired by Mattie to find her father’s killer. Although Rooster and Mattie are disparate personalities in nearly every way, they both have that rarest of traits: true grit. The relationship between the two is the foundation on which Portis builds a novel that is an effective character study, as well as a tension filled adventure.

The audiobook is narrated by Donna Tartt, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Secret History and The Goldfinch. I sought out the audiobook mainly due to a curiosity about how one of my favorite authors would fare as a narrator. Tartt gives each character a distinct voice, although her best and most convincing depiction is Mattie. I recommend True Grit not only for fans of westerns, but for anyone interested in an exciting story populated by dynamic, engaging characters.

The River by Peter Heller

Book- The River is the latest from Peter Heller, author of the bestselling novels The Dog Stars and Celine. The River follows Jack and Wynn, two college friends on a canoe trip in northern Canada. Both are outdoorsmen, but different in many respects. Jack, stoic with a realistic worldview, grew up in a ranching family. Wynn, while nearly as well versed in the great outdoors, is more optimistic and romantic. Although the two young men seem more than prepared for an extended trip through the wilds of Canada, a sense of foreboding looms from the beginning. A fast-approaching forest fire rages miles behind them, and is not the only unexpected challenge the two friends face. As Jack and Wynn distance themselves from the fire and toward civilization, they encounter obstacles that test their survival skills and friendship.

Other reviews summarize the plot in greater detail, but I recommend avoiding them, to fully grasp the suspense of this novel. The River is equal parts thriller, character study, and outdoor adventure, which is tightly plotted and beautifully written. Nothing feels extraneous. Peter Heller’s extensive knowledge of the outdoors lends itself to the authenticity of the novel.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Image result for fingersmith coverBook – As a fan of historical fiction, I was lucky to recently discover the work of Sarah Waters whose novels include: Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith, set in the Victorian era. Additionally, the notable The Night Watch (WWII) and her most recent work The Paying Guests (WWI), are set during or directly after world wars.

Fingersmith tells the story of Sue, a seventeen-year-old orphan living in Victorian London, brought up by and among, professional thieves. A frequent visitor to her home, known to her only as “Gentleman” hatches a plot to steal the fortune of young woman, Maud Lilly. Gentleman proposes Sue help him secure the fortune by posing as a lady’s maid in Maud’s home. Maud lives a secluded life on her scholarly uncle’s country estate, where she acts as his secretary, but otherwise leads a rather aimless, dull existence. Maud agrees to assist Gentleman in exchange for a cut of Maud’s fortune, which Sue hopes to use to pay back her adoptive mother, Mrs. Sucksby. An unexpected bond and attachment forms between Sue and Maud, which threatens Gentleman’s plan as well as the rather meager lives both young women have come to accept for themselves.

This is a novel full of twists, turns and unexpected developments. Fans of Victorian literature (in particular Charles Dickens) are sure to appreciate Fingersmith, not simply because of the Victorian era setting, but because the book reads in the manner of classic Dickens novels, only with a modern twist. Readers familiar with Dickens will find his writing style reflected in Waters’s style: the use of memorable, humorous names, and a talent for creating mystery and suspense. Readers will also note Dickensian themes such as, a focus on social class, a preoccupation with orphans and their misfortune, and complex portrayals of the story’s villains. Fingersmith is long, but the plot twists and character reveals make for a thoroughly engaging read.