March Book Reveal: Wild

The first book option for our March box is Wild by Cheryl Strayed!

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

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Book Club Discussion: The Life We Bury

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. 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!

How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?

It definitely took me a while to get into the book. I thought I knew who did it right away and I didn’t find out until near the end that I was wrong. I definitely wasn’t expecting all the crazy kidnapping that happened at the end so that brought me back into the story and made it more interesting.

What aspects of the novel did the author draw from to come up with the title for The Life We Bury?

All three of the main characters had something in their past they were trying to hide and and move on from. Even though they tried so hard to bury the past, all three of them ended up telling their secret and that seemed to help each of them move on.

Which character, if any, did you identify with the most? Why?

I can’t say I really identified with any of the characters. I was rooting for Joe throughout the story though.

How did you feel about the character of Carl Iverson when he was first introduced?

I was pretty sure he didn’t commit the murder right away since there wouldn’t have been much of a book plot if he had so I definitely felt sorry for him.

What would you say are Joe’s strongest character traits?

He valued family and was very committed even sometimes when he shouldn’t have, he was very determined; both to go to school despite his circumstances and exonerate Carl.  

Questions from author’s website.

Book Club Discussion: The Miniaturist

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. 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!

How would you describe the sense of place in The Miniaturist, and how does the novel present seventeenth century Amsterdam?

In the novel Amsterdam was far more rigid than I pictured it being when I studied the city and its  golden age of commerce during college. I was surprised about how gossipy and rule driven the city felt in the book, at least in Nella’s experience.

What does the gift of the cabinet house symbolise to Nella in terms of her marriage to Johannes and her own status?

While Johannes was trying to be kind, Nella took the gift of the doll house personally as a comment on her own age. She felt the gift was Johannes’s way of implying that she was a child and would enjoy childish things.

The Brandt household is full of secrets. Which made the biggest impression on you and why?

Marin’s room! The reveal of her curiosity filled room  was one of my favorite parts of the whole novel. It made me soften towards her character a bit after realizing she had a thirst for worldly knowledge and collecting. I have always loved the idea of curiosity cabinets, so it was fun that the concept was incorporated into the novel.

Did your attitude to the characters remain consistent throughout the novel, or did your loyalties shift as you kept reading? Which character provoked the strongest reaction from you?

I already mentioned my softening towards Marin as the book went on, but I never fully got on board with her character. It was fun to see Nella come into her own as the book went forward as she gained confidence and then finally, true control of the household.

Do you think the miniaturist is a magical force or a human one? What is the most important thing that Nella learns from her?

This aspect of the story was frustrating for me, as it bordered on magical realism but never truly or fully crossed the line into full on magic. I think the author intended that the magic/human explanation be difficult to figure out. I would lean more towards the human element, as it seems the miniaturist was always watching and Amsterdam is portrayed as a city where gossip travels fast.

Questions from http://www.picador.com/blog/february-2015/the-miniaturist-book-club-questions

February Book Reveal: Modern Romance

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

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February Book Reveal: The Engagements

The Engagements by by J. Courtney Sullivan

The bestselling author of Maine returns with an exhilarating novel about Frances Gerety, the real pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and four unique marriages that will test how true—or not—those words might be.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years, but their son’s messy divorce has put them at rare odds; James, a beleaguered paramedic, has spent most of his marriage haunted by his wife’s family’s expectations; Delphine has thrown caution to the wind and left a peaceful French life for an exciting but rocky romance in America; and Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. As the stories connect to each other and to Frances’s legacy in surprising ways, The Engagements explores the complicated ins and outs of relationships, then, now, and forever.

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Book Club Discussion: The Snow Child

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. 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!

When Mabel first arrives in Alaska, it seems a bleak and lonely place to her. Does her sense of the land change over time? If so, how?

Her sense of the land definitely changes over time. The land becomes optimistic and hopeful as she starts to appreciate it’s potential and beauty throughout the novel.

In what ways does Faina represent the Alaska wilderness?
She is wild and independent and able to live completely off the land. She adapts to the weather and the landscape.
 
Much of Jack and Mabel’s sorrow comes from not having a family of their own, and yet they leave their extended family behind to move to Alaska. By the end of the novel, has their sense of family changed? Who would they consider a part of their family?
Although Mabel still keeps in contact with her sister, their sense of family has changed to include the people they meet in Alaska. Esther and her family become a part of Jack and Mabel’s family and Faina becomes their daughter. They create a unique family of their own in Alaska.
 

What do you believe happened to Faina in the end? Who was she?

There are many ways the ending can be interpreted and I don’t feel strongly one way or another. It simply seemed like the right way to end the book. Faina served her purpose and moved on. She became a part of the Alaskan Wilderness.

Share your responses in the comments section!

Questions by Princeton Book Review

Book Club Discussion: My True Love Gave to Me, Twelve Holiday Stories

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for My True Love Gave to Me, Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins. 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!

Did you enjoy reading the collection of short stories? How did the experience compare to reading a full novel?

I enjoyed the fact that I was able to pick it up and read through a story in one sitting. Getting to the end of one story and moving on the the next one was fun. It was also nice to be able to move on from stories I didn’t care for as much!

Which was your favorite short story and why?

Angels in the Snow was my favorite. I liked that it was relatable, modern, and did not contain any fantasy elements. The main character’s mother had recently passed away and he was going through the holiday season without her for the first time. Having had a parent recently pass, this portion of the story was quite relatable. Polaris came in second, the concept was so cute!

Which was your least favorite short story and why?

Krampusklauf was my least favorite! The story felt very young to me and when it turned out the cramps creature was real, not just in costume, the story lost me completely.

Did you notice any recurring themes throughout the anthology?

Each story was based around a couple. I realized about halfway through that all the couples from the stories were depicted in the ice skating rink on the cover! It was fun using the visual clues to figure out who was who. I was actually surprised that love wasn’t the main theme in every story, even though most contained a romantic element. In many stories the holiday season was a background feature, not a front and center theme as I was expecting.

Questions by Hello Book Lover.

January Book Reveal: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

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January Book Reveals: The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

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Book Club Discussion: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal. 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!

From an early age, Eva is obsessed with food and cooking. What influences shape her interest?  

Oddly, it does not seem to be from any external elements in her life. Her adoptive parents do not take an interest in food. The interest seems to come from some magical imprint left by her father, who was only alive for a few months of her life as an infant. Eva’s real dad mentions that he in chomping at teh bit to feed her all sorts of foods and even places her on the kitchen counter in her carrier so she can smell the food cooking. Her mother is a sommelier and has a sophisticated palate as well. In this was the author sets it up as a genetic predisposition more than anything else.

How would you characterize the Midwest as Stradal paints it in this book? What makes the setting unique and important for this particular story?

Continue reading “Book Club Discussion: Kitchens of the Great Midwest”