September Book Reveal: Better Than Before

image1 (2)The second book option for September is Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin!

The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change?

Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.

So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why?
• How quickly can I change a habit?
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
• How can I help someone else change a habit?
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book.

September Book Reveal: You Are a Badass

13892017_2035500466675823_9183095353354067673_nGet inspired with our first book choice for the September”Make it Happen” Box: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

Book Club Discussion: The Rocks

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Rocks, by Peter Nichols. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. The Rocks is a novel that experiments with the chronology of storytelling, unfurling backward through time. What did you think about the way that time was handled in the narrative? Did it affect the way you related to the story and characters? Did it make the story feel more—or less—propulsive?

When I first started reading and noticed the dates at the beginnings of the sections, I thought that the story was going to jump back and forth between past and present. It actually took me a long time to realize the narrative was only moving backwards. It was an interesting way to read the story, because you had substantial insight into the outcomes of earlier events based on the characters relationships in the chapters set later in time at the beginning of the book. In a way this kind of ruined the momentum of the story for me, I felt like nothing major was really happening throughout the book and the chapters later in the book just filled in gaps set up at the beginning.

2. How did you interpret the ending with Luc and Aegina? Was it clear or ambiguous? Light or dark? How did you feel about the author’s decisions there?

I thought the ending between Luc and Aegina was wholly positive and fairly clear. Maybe I missed something, but I am not sure what about the end could be considered dark. It was interesting that they were unable to connect until the death of their parents, which in part, seemed to somewhat unconsciously hold them back throughout the book. I am glad that they seem like they are going to reconcile. It was sad to watch them spend their whole lives not really speaking due to a few miscommunications when they were young.

3. From the beginning of the book we understand that there is a secret at the foundation of Lulu and Gerald’s split, and that it may be based on a tragic misunderstanding. The book then spirals backward through time to get to that past secret. Were you surprised when you found out the truth? Was it what you expected? Were you satisfied?

Surprised, because I thought that the event that split up Gerald and Lulu was going to be much more serious. I was also expecting Gerald to be more at fault then he turned out to be. It seemed ridiculous to me that Lulu would think Gerald would leave her behind without a good reason, and I had trouble believing that she wouldn’t give him a chance to explain what happened. The whole thing, while certainly traumatic for Lulu, was a ridiculous miscommunication between the couple and was completely unsatisfying.

4. Consider the parallel relationships between Aegina and Luc, Lulu and Gerald. How are these two relationships similar, and how they are different? To what degree is Aegina and Luc’s relationship shaped by the dynamic between their parents?

As I mentioned in my answer to the earlier question, it is interesting that Luc and Aegina are unable to begin to reconcile until their parents have died. Similar to their parents, their relationship falls apart after a miscommunication in Morocco. Aegina does not give Luc a chance to explain and they break ties. I would argue that Luc’s transgression (sleeping with the German woman) was more serious than the what occurred between Lulu and Gerald, which was simply miscommunication. In both instances it seems the women are able to move on fairly easily, while the men pine and are unable to get over their lost loves.

Share your comments below!

Book Club Discussion: A Hundred Summers

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. While Lily’s mother is mentioned and seen from afar many times throughout the story, she does not actually appear or speak until late in the novel. Why do you think Beatriz Williams chose to keep her in the background until Lily confronts her?

Throughout most of the book we didn’t know Lily’s mother’s involvement in anything. So it made sense that she remained in the background until her involvement came to light.

2. What did you think of Lily and Budgie’s friendship? Were they really friends? Have you ever had a similar dynamic with a friend?

They had a toxic friendship. I think they were really friends but only as much as Budgie was able to have a friend. Budgie didn’t understand real friendship.

3. Could you forgive Nick for marrying Budgie? What are your thoughts on Nick’s character overall?

I don’t think I could. I feel like he could have come to Lily a lot sooner than he did to try and explain the situation. Overall, I liked Nick a lot at the beginning but as it was revealed how he dealt with the situations unfolding throughout the book, I liked him less.

4. Why do you think Lily dated Graham? Did she really like him?

I think Lily dated Graham because she was tired of being bothered by everyone questioning her about why she’s not dating anyone. She knew him already, was attracted to him and he was there all the time so it made it easy. I think she convinced herself she really liked him over time.

5. At what point did you guess who Kiki’s real parents were?

When Lily’s mother and Nick’s father showed up at the apartment on New Year’s Eve I suspected the affair between them, as well as who Kiki’s parents were.

Share your comments below!

August Book Reveal: A Window Opens

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

Sign up for the August “Bookstore Obsession” box!

August Book Reveal: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

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Book Club Discussion: Eight Hundred Grapes

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Eight Hundred Grapes, by Laura Dave. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. The one common denominator for the Ford siblings is love of their mother’s lasagna. Do you have a similar tradition in your family? What brings you together, no matter what?

Similar to the book, my family has always bonded over family dinners. Every night growing up everyone sat down to a home cooked meal free of distractions and talked to each other. Now that we’re older we have the same family dinners when everyone is in town!

2. How does forgiveness play into this story? Could you forgive Ben for hiding Maddie? Could you forgive Finn for kissing Margaret?

I don’t think I could forgive Ben for hiding Maddie. Asking Georgia to marry him should mean he’s asking her to be his partner in life. This means they should deal with conflicts together. A big secret like that would not be a good start to a marriage. When it comes to Finn, he is family so even though it may take some time, he should be forgiven. Forgiveness is part of being a family. With Ben, Georgia still has a choice.

3. Why is Jacob unexpectedly appealing to Georgia? Discuss their similarities, both in personality and life paths.

They are both following the path of their families. They have both tried to stray from the family legacy but ultimately end up right back where they never thought they wanted to be and realize it’s where they belong.

4. Ben takes full responsibility for lying, but Finn points out that Georgia wasn’t necessarily tuned in to her fiancé. Discuss whether there are two sides to every conflict, even when something seems black and white.

There are definitely two sides to every conflict but that doesn’t mean one can’t be more wrong or right than the other.

5. Do you think that Georgia will be happy running the vineyard and being with Jacob? Why or why not? What’s the biggest lesson she has learned?

Yes. When she moved away from the vineyard, she tried to create a life for herself that was the opposite of her life growing up. In the end, she realizes she’s not being true to herself and belongs back at the vineyard where she really wanted to be all along.

Share your comments below!

Questions by: Hello Book Lover and Simon and Schuster

Book Club Discussion: The Signature of All Things

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. The Signature of All Things takes as its first focus not the book’s heroine, Alma Whittaker, but her rough-and-tumble father, Henry. Why do you think Elizabeth Gilbert made this choice in her narration, and why are the first fifty pages essential to the rest of the novel?

I flew through the first half of this book and the first 50 pages chronicling the adventures of Alma’s father were a big part of this. I absolutely loved this part of the book. Gilbert seemed to intend that these first 50 pages featuring the adventures and travels of Alma’s father function in stark contrast to the cloistered life of Alma, who rarely strayed a few miles from the Philadelphia estate for most of her life. It further emphasized the fact that, despite being curious and clever like her father, she was only able to explore the world in microcosm on the grounds of the estate.

2. Alma Whittaker grows up in the richest family in Philadelphia. In what ways does her father’s fortune set her free? In what ways is it a prison?

Her father’s fortune allows Alma the freedom to learn and explore. Since she does not have to work like many young people did during this time, her main focus is expanding her brain and satiating her endless curiosity. Despite the wealth, Alma never strays far from home. I felt that it was a bit unclear why the family never traveled. It seems as though they could have easily done so. Her father’s decision to remain sequestered on the estate forces Alma to live in a very small world, with only her books as a means to explore the world beyond the walls.

3. Alma’s husband, Ambrose Pike, offers her a marriage filled with deep respect, spiritual love, intellectual adventure-and positively no sex. Should she have been contented with this arrangement?

I don’t think she should have settled for the arrangement, particularly because there was a clear miscommunication going into the marriage. It doesn’t seem fair to ask that Alma be contented with the situation just because everything else was so great. Alma’s sexuality is clearly a large part of who she is and was one of the main things she was looking forward to if a romance ever did come her way. I was actually quite surprised when she back out after finding out Ambrose did not want to be intimate. I thought for sure she would settle for the situation minus the sex.

4. What did you think of Alma’s decision to go to Tahiti?

As far as the storyline goes, I understand why the author had her go there but I did not agree with Alma’s choice to do so. It seemed like weird way to gain closure on the situation. I would even argue that she did not get full closure, though the book made it seem that way. Her time in Tahiti was my least favorite part of the novel and was difficult for me to get through.

5. Alma loved mosses and Ambrose loved orchids, how did their botanical favorites relate to their characters?

I really loved this dichotomy. Alma has a revelatory moment and mosses become her passion. Much like Alma, mosses are slow and steady, not shifting much over the course of many years. I felt that this mirrored Alma’s stasis as she stayed inside the walls of her childhood home. In order to see and understand the complexity of mosses you had too look closely. Similarly, Alma is quite private and keeps much of her complex thinking to herself, unsure of how to tell others how she feels. Ambrose is quite the opposite. Like an orchid, he is beautiful, bright and lively. He seems to wear his heart on his sleeve and offer his complex thoughts and opinions to anyone who asks. His one secret, his homosexuality could perhaps be compared to the manner in which orchids rarely bloom, something he was never able to fully unveil until he traveled to Tahiti.

Share your comments below!

Explore further: Author interview! 
Questions by: Hello Book Lover and Penguin Random House

July Book Reveal: The Rocks

the rocks

The Rocks: A Novel by Peter Nichols

“Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

Peter Nichols writes with a pervading, soulful wisdom and self-knowing humor, and captures perfectly this world of glamorous, complicated, misbehaving types with all their sophisticated flaws and genuine longing. The result is a bittersweet, intelligent, and romantic novel about how powerful the perceived truth can be—as a bond, and as a barrier—even if it’s not really the whole story; and how one misunderstanding can echo irreparably through decades.”

Sign up for the July box now!

July Book Reveal: A Hundred Summers

A Hundred SummersWe’ll meet you at the beach with this perfect summer read!

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

“Memorial Day, 1938 Lily Dane has returned to Seaview, Rhode Island, where her family has summered for generations. It’s an escape not only from New York’s social scene but from a heartbreak that still haunts her. Here, among the seaside community that has embraced her since childhood, she finds comfort in the familiar rituals of summer.

But this summer is different. Budgie and Nick Greenwald—Lily’s former best friend and former fiancé—have arrived, too, and Seaview’s elite are abuzz. Under Budgie’s glamorous influence, Lily is seduced into a complicated web of renewed friendship and dangerous longing.

As a cataclysmic hurricane churns north through the Atlantic, and uneasy secrets slowly reveal themselves, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional storm that will change their worlds forever…”