Happy New Year – Happy Birthday to JPL’s Book-In-A-Blog!

birthday_cake[1]I cannot believe that it’s 2015, and JPLs Book-In-A-Blog is almost a year old!  Things started off January 28, 2014 with just a little about how this endeavor was going to work.  Quickly followed by our first pick Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  For those dying for information about the possible movie being made with Jennifer Lawrence there isn’t much news IMDB still is listing it as “in development.”  I loved the book and feel as though there is potentially a really great movie in there.  Let’s start a movement and tell them that they need to get a move on.


I thought he might be funny, but he’s actually pretty creepy – no?

I do hope that you have been enjoying the book club as much as I have enjoyed facilitating.  I’d love to hear from some of you – I know you’re out there I can see when you stop in.  NO big brother isn’t watching!  I don’t know who you are but I do see when you stop in.

I truly would like to get some feedback or suggestions as to what you might want to read.  I’m a facilitator not a dictator. Tweet me, comment on the blog, send me a message on Facebook, comment on a pin – I’m here for you.

OK enough begging.

Elmer_fudd[1]For all of my faithful followers you get a sneak peak at our next selection (shhh the next newsletter isn’t out yet.)

I’ve decided to step away from fiction this month and delve into non-fiction.  Don’t panic I’m not asking you to read Herodotus.  For January stop in and pick up a copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  I’ll post more information this week about the book.





A Quick Thought and Then Back to the Book!

bulldog wearing eyeglasses sleeping over a good novelHave you ever begun a book that received great reviews and been befuddled as to why?

Was it the book?

Was it you?

I was just conversing with a couple of colleagues and we were talking about books (shocking I know).  Two of us are reading the same novel and loving it and the other librarian began the book and decided she just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book and stopped reading. Similarly, I was reading a book that received glowing reviews in the blogosphere and I got about half way through and wasn’t engaged so I stopped reading.

I think that in both instances it wasn’t the book that failed to engage the reader it was the reader that failed to engage with the book.

Burial Rites was not the book I bagged.  I actually love it, I just thought I'd share my picture with you.

Burial Rites was not the book I bagged. I actually love it, I just thought I’d share my picture with you.

What do you think?

Additionally, if you have ever bagged a book because it just wasn’t the right time did you

ever give it a second chance?

Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for

us.” (Alain de Botton)

A Land More Kind Than Home – Let’s Talk About the Setting

MP900385621[1]As you can see I love the ability to take an armchair tour the world through books.  In our last novel we learned a little bit about Iceland.  I truly do feel that Hannah Kent gave us a terrific sense of place and time in Burial Rites.

Are you getting that sense of place from Wiley Cash?

The setting is a very small town in North Carolina.  Do you think that the events depicted could have occurred in a less remote and closed off community? 

Is the setting vital in the storytelling?  What about the community might have allowed Chambliss and his beliefs to take root?  

Would you like to find out more about North Carolina? 

The Jericho Public Library has a database that can help. America the Beautiful offers state-by-state coverage includes geography, history, economy, government and cultural highlights. You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit http://www.jericholibrary.org/, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for Encyclopedias & Dictionaries. You will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

Burial Rites – The End

Burial Rites AmericanI realize that some of you may have found Burial Rites difficult to get through.  I didn’t promise a “happy” read.  I was hoping to offer you a book that would take you on a journey to an unknown place and time and get you to pick up a book that might have fallen through the literary cracks. In an earlier post I told you that I was having a great deal of difficulty choosing the inaugural book for JPL’s Book-In-A-Blog.  Before finishing Burial Rites I just knew that this was the “one.” How?  Well, like you I knew from reading the book jacket how the novel would end.  It is the story of the last woman executed in Iceland after all.  I knew what Agnes’ fate was, and yet when I got to that final chapter a part of me held out hope for her. I had grown to like her, feel for her, root for her much as Margret did.  I saw Agnes as a woman who had been treated terribly and had loved Natan (even if he truly didn’t deserve her love.) So as Margret, Steina and Lauga sobbed so did I.  Even now as I re-read to refresh my memory I find tears fighting behind my eyes daring me to read on.

Margret is reaching out to me and she takes my hand in hers, clasps my fingers so tightly that it hurts, it hurts.
“You are not a monster,” she says. Her face is flushed and she bites her lip, she bites down. Her fingers, entwined with my own, are hot and greasy.
“They’re going to kill me.” Who said that? Did I say that?
“We’ll remember you, Agnes.” she presses my fingers more tightly, until I almost cry out from he pain, and then I am crying. I don’t want to be remembered, I want to be here!
“I am right here, Agnes.  You’ll be all right, my girl. My girl.”

What did you think of the book?  Did you connect with the characters? You know how I feel about the book – now it’s your turn. Let me have it I’m tough I can take it!

Hannah Kent has done an admirable job of researching the events and people involved, but this is a work of fiction.  She admits to have taken some liberties with the story as there are no accounts of what transpired while Agnes was living with the family.  We don’t know what was said, or what their relationships were. Do you enjoy reading fictionalized accounts of real events? Did the story seem plausible to you?

edeb4e204643c1054f3bc2cd9ff56bd5Agnes was executed January, 12, 1830.  Her remains buried along with Fridrik in an unmarked grave.  Later, their remains were moved and the headstone place.

I do hope you enjoyed reading Burial Rites along with me.  Please feel free to comment, tweet, or “friend” JPL’s Book-In-A-Blog on Facebook. Let me know what you thought of the book, and what you might like to read with me in the future.

We’ll begin our next book soon.  You can find out about our next pick on the Jericho Public Library website (www.jericholibrary.org) or Newsletter,  here on the blog, via Twitter or Facebook.

Burial Rites – Discussion Questions III (Spoiler Alert)

Burial RitesWe’re nearing the end of the discussion.

The story revolves around the murder of Natan. Agnes is found guilty of his murder, but it’s not until very late in the novel that Agnes is able to discuss the events surrounding the murder.  What do you think about her take on the murder? Do you believe her version? Given the bleakness of her situation, do you think she could have extricated herself from his household?   Do you think that given the opportunity that she would have taken it?

I know it’s not proper to speak ill of the dead but I must.  If Natan was truly depicted in the novel he was an unlikeable creature who lied to Agnes.  Do I think he deserved his fate? No, but would I mourn him? No! Given the little bit we know about Natan what do you think of him?

Related links:







Burial Rites – Questions Part II (Spoiler Alert)

Let’s talk about character development.

We begin the book by meeting the family Steina, Lauga and Margret. Oddly enough even though the father, Jón Jónsson, was the main motivation for Blondel to house Agnes in the Jonsdottir household he was rarely at home.  It was the three women who feared and then grew to accept Agnes.  Even though we do learn about Agnes from her own inner thoughts I think we learn so much about her from the observations of these three women.  It is through Margrets’ observations that the reader learns of the inhumanity and mistreatment that Agnes experienced during her incarceration.  We can’t know how much time Jon spent at home during the time that Agnes was present. Why do you think that Kent wrote the story is such a female centric manner? 

Agnes begins the book as an unknown, abandoned, mysterious feral creature who has been locked up in a dark hovel.  Does Agnes change over time, or are we just seeing her become who she was prior to her arrest?  Are Steina, Lauga and Margret changed by Agnes’s time with them?

Even though this is truly the story of these four women we can’t ignore Tóti and his relationship with Agnes.  Thrust  into the position of being the spiritual advisor for Agnes on her journey to her execution, Tóti is forced to grow into his religious life prematurely.  Do we see him mature and grow?  As a man not fully grown, is he the best that Agnes could have found to advise her? When he is chosen by Agnes the reader and characters in the novel wonder about the randomness of her choice.  It is much later in the story that we find out the connection that the two share.  In your opinion was there an underlying cause for Agnes’ choice of Tóti?

Apropos of nothing really. During my Internet mining regarding Burial Rites I found a blog written by an author, James Thompson,who delivers a succinct history of Iceland, mentions the execution and provides a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Iceland.  I thought you might be interested as well. Follow this link  – Jimland.

Burial Rites – Questions (Spoiler Alert)

I happen to enjoy the historical fiction genre, but regardless of whether you’re a historical fiction buff or not it’s clear that Hannah Kent has certainly done her research.  She has included historical documents throughout the novel.  Did you find the inclusion helpful in understanding Agnes and the time period?

We learn so much about Blöndal via these historical documents.  His dispassionate communications with those whom he controls are filled with venom and spite.  In my opinion he is the true villain of the novel.  Why did he remove Agnes from Stora-Borg, and why move her to live with District Officer Jon and his family? What do you think motivated his decision to go forward with the execution of Agnes and Fridrik while sparing Sigrídur?

Agnes’ time spent at Stora-Borg was brutal and dismal. Her life while living with the family bordered on hopeful.  There were times I felt as though it was almost cruel to have given her hope, but I was so torn.  Would she have been better just remaining at Stora-Borg or was that time spent more free worth it?

A Little Bit about Iceland

Credit Sigridur Sigurdardottir, Byggdasafn Skagfirdinga The walls of the 18th-century turf house at the Glaumbaer Folk Museum.

Credit Sigridur Sigurdardottir, Byggdasafn Skagfirdinga
The walls of the 18th-century turf house at the Glaumbaer Folk Museum.

Hannah Kent has done a terrific job of painting a picture of life in Iceland in 1862 but sometimes it helps to have a visual as well.

Picador Press has posted a photographic tour of what Iceland might have been like for Agnes Magnúsdóttir – http://www.picador.com/blog/august-2013/burial-rites-a-photo-essay-from-iceland

Where is Iceland?


Icelandic History

May I suggest you visit the Jericho Public Library’s website at www.jericholibrary.org.  There you will find helpful databases.  I recommend World History in Context.

Icelandic Sagas

sagaInterested in reading more about the sagas?

Courtesy of the BBC – listen to Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas.

The Icelandic Sagas: Europe’s most important book? An article from the theguardian.com

The sagas as posted on the Icelandic Saga Database – http://sagadb.org/