October Book Reveal: The Silent Sister

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. It was a belief that helped shape her own childhood and that of her brother. It shaped her view of her family and their dynamics. It influenced her entire life. Now, more than twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that what she has always believed is not the truth. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why, exactly, was she on the run all those years ago? What secrets are being kept now, and what will happen if those secrets are revealed? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality. Told with Diane Chamberlain’s powerful prose and illumination into the human heart and soul, The Silent Sister is an evocative novel of love, loss, and the bonds among siblings.

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October Book Reveal: The Lake House

14183768_2057788267780376_883995121238209519_nThe Lake House by Kate Morton

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

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Book Club Discussion: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. 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. Consider the setting. Why do you think the author chooses to set the book on an island? How does the island setting reflect A.J.’s character?

I liked the island setting because I felt that A.J. didn’t quite fit there, He almost seemed to be a misfit in his own life. When I found out he quit school to start a bookstore with Nic things made a little more sense. I can picture him being a professor.. The island could certainly stand as a symbol for the way A.J. separated himself off from the world in general. It seems this was always his demeanor, but it worsened after Nic died. Maya’s entrance into his life reverses this and A.J. is able to open up and let people back in as she grows up.

2. Perhaps oddly, vampires are a recurring motif in the story: for example, when A.J.’s wife throws the vampire prom and when A.J. watches True Blood to court Amelia. What do you make of the references to vampires?

The vampires were a fun pop-culture inclusion that made the book a bit less stuffy. The fact that A.J. ends up liking True Blood more than he thought was a fun anecdote that added to his character development. It is interesting that in both cases it is the women in his life that force A.J. to step out of his comfort zone and accept gimmicky pop-culture tropes, something A.J. never would have done on his own.

3. Did you find Ismay’s motivations for stealing Tamerlane to be forgivable? How do you think she should pay for her crime? Why do you think Lambiase lets her off?

This was one of the only plot points in the book that I didn’t particularly like. It seems silly that Ismay would steal a book from A.J. when her husband is a successful author and they likely aren’t hurting for money. She likely felt that giving Maya’s mother an object to resell, rather than giving her cash, was somehow less terrible. Lambiase was right to let her off, so much time had passed and the truth would have opened up some wounds that were best left alone.

4. At one point, Maya speculates that perhaps “your whole life is determined by what store you get left in” (page 85). Is it the people or the place that makes the difference?

This is one of the quotes from the book that stuck out to me, particularly because it was something Maya pondered when she was very young. Even though it comes from a child’s thought process, it was a poignant statement. Life in general is happenstance, and I often think about how where you are and when can alter the course of your life.

5. How do you think the arrival of the e-reader is related to the denouement of the story? Is A.J. a man who cannot exist in a world with e-books? What do you think of e-books? Do you prefer reading in e- or on paper?

I don’t think I would have made this connection on my own, without the prompting of this question. It is a poetic way to think about the introduction of the e-reader into the story. Personally, I prefer physical books. I have used my sisters kindle a few times and it feels kind of odd. That being said, it is pretty convenient!

Explore Further! Author Interview

Questions by: Hello Book Lover & Lit Lovers

Book Club Discussion: A Window Opens

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for A Window Opens, by Elisabeth Egan. 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. What kind of pressures and challenges do the main characters face throughout the story, and how do they cope with them? Which methods seem to be the most effective for dealing with these obstacles?

The main challenge Alice deals with throughout the book is balancing her job and her family. She does not cope very well, always giving in to the demands of her job over her family. Her husband is faced with having more responsibility around the household and he also does not handle it very well either. In the end, communication is key when dealing with these obstacles. If they had all been a little more open about what they needed, the issues could have been dealt with much sooner.

2. How are technology and social media represented in the book? Are they presented positively or negatively—or does the author offer a mostly neutral view? Explain.

I think technology was represented negatively in the book. Scroll was portrayed as a company just looking to make money through advances in technology. They did not seem to respect the employees or the book selling industry that they would ultimately be trying to shut down. You feel bad for Susanna throughout the story as the owner of the bookstore, further putting technology in a negative light.

3. Genevieve recalls George Bernard Shaw’s maxim, “Progress is impossible without change.” What message does the book offer about the themes of progress and change?

The message from the book is that change is definitely necessary for progress but be careful how you go about it.

4. Do you feel that Alice made the right choice by accepting the job at Scroll? Do you feel that she made the right choice by leaving the same job later? How did both of her decisions impact those around her? How did her decisions contribute to or detract from her own development and sense of self and well-being? Discuss.

At the time, I feel that Alice definitely made the right decision to accept the job at scroll. She was doing what she thought she needed to do in order to support her family and it also happened to be something she was interested in doing. She definitely made the right choice to leave the job later. After trying it out it was obvious it wasn’t the right job for her to be able to balance work and family. The toll it was taking on her family life was ultimately not worth it. At the beginning Alice felt that having this sought after job was the best way for her to feel better about herself. By the end, she realized her family is her first priority.

Questions by: Hello Book Lover and Simon and Schuster

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?

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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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