Book Club Discussion: The School of Essential Ingredients

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. 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 Claire first walks into Lillian’s, she reflects: “When was the last time she had been someplace where no one knew who she was?” Is the anonymity of the kitchen a lure for Lillian’s students?

I think a lot of the students realize the anonymity of the kitchen once they go to the class for the first time. They are all put in a different than normal situation by working with a small group of people from different background that they don’t know at all. In a way it gives them a fresh start.

As a general rule, Lillian doesn’t give her students recipes. Why do you think she does this? What are the pros and cons of this approach to cooking?

Without having a recipe, you are forced to be creative. You are able to try different ideas and ingredients without worrying about doing something wrong. You have more freedom.

Each of the character’s stories centers on a dish or an ingredient that has a profound effect upon how they see themselves or the world. What connections do you see between Claire and the crabs? Between Chloe and tortillas? Tom and the pasta sauce? 

The crabs show Claire that she could conquer something on her own. Chloe helps to make the tortillas from scratch and molds them in her hands. Shortly after the tortillas she takes control of her own life.

At the end of the novel, Lillian reflects that: “She saw how connected [the students’] lives had become and would remain. Where did a teacher fit in the picture, she wondered, when there was no longer a class?” What does happen to Lillian once her class is disbanded? Do you feel that each character’s story is resolved? What do you imagine happens in these characters’ lives after the book ends?

Once the class is disbanded Lillian will probably begin another class and they will all learn things together inside and out of the kitchen like this class did. The character’s stories were not necessarily resolved but each character learned something through the class that changed their outlook on something in their lives that they will use outside of the class.

Questions from author’s website.

December Book Reveal: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories.

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

December Book Reveal: The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Book Club Discussion: The Silent Sister

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Silent Sister, by Diane Chamberlain. 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 did you think of Jeannie? Did you feelings towards her as a character change over the course of the novel?

I despised Jeannie at the beginning of the novel and thought that Riley was way too lenient with her and Christine’s intrusion, despite her being overwhelmed by the task. By the end of the novel I had warmed to her and appreciated that she tried to shield Riley from everything, though I think it was better off that she found out the truth.

2. How did you react to Danny’s vehement desire to see Lisa arrested? Did your understanding or reaction change as the story unfolded?

I understood Danny’s anger towards Lisa, especially since he was old enough to sense the deceptions going on within his own family, despite not understanding the extent of the lies. He certainly seemed to be most affected by what happened and took it quite personally. I never felt he was out of line in his reactions, but was glad when he decided not to go to the police.

3.  While Riley is looking for the truth about her family she isn’t always sure that she will reach out to Lisa if she is able to find her. What do you see as the turning point in her search when she makes a firm decision to contact Lisa?

It seemed that when she speaks to Grady and hears that Jade was “A great girl.” is a major turning point, but the tipping point was when she found out the truth about her relation to Jade/Lisa. Having lost most of her family, she is desperate to make familial links having just lost her father.

4. Spoiler Alert! The truth was revealed in small doses as the novel moved forward. Did you suspect the secrets relating to Riley’s history?

I guessed that Lisa had been raped by the violin instructor and was probably pregnant during the gap in her violin instruction early on, but for some reason I never ever made the jump to Riley being her daughter! I was surprised as anyone when it was revealed.

5. How did you react to Riley’s decision to move to Seattle and maintain the lie about her and Jade’s history?

I understood Riley’s compulsion to want know her mother. After finding out the real story of her parentage origins and what happened the day of the murder she decided she could live with it and move forward without blame. So much time had passed this seemed like a logical choice.

Questions from Hello Book Lover and the author’s website.



Book Club Discussion: The Lake House

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Lake House, by Kate Morton. 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 structure of this novel lies in recreating different time periods in Cornwall and London—in the early 1930s and in 2003. Do you feel that the author was successful in moving the reader between the historical and more contemporary times?

Yes! It was surprisingly easy to move between the time periods throughout the novel. It was interesting to have some of the characters from the 1930s be a part of the 2003 story line as well and to see how their thinking and personalities changed over such a chunk of time.

2. Mysteries, twists, family secrets, carefully placed red herrings, and unexpected revelations are now compelling traditions in Kate Morton’s novels. What parts of the novel were key to your enjoyment of the story?

I loved how the house was basically a main character in the novel and held a lot of the family secrets. Once the house was reopened, so was the mystery. I also enjoyed learning about Eleanor’s past and her younger years and how that intertwined with the mystery and Alice’s perception of her mother.

3. After Sadie stumbles upon Loeanneth, she’s drawn to it, returning daily and “no matter which way she headed out on her morning run, she always ended up in the overgrown garden.” (p. 135) What is it about Loeanneth that intrigues Sadie? Why do you think she dives head first into solving the mysteries of the estate?

I think Loeanneth starts out as a refuge from everything going wrong in Sadie’s life and also as an escape from confronting her grandfather about why she’s really visitng. Before she knows anything about the place, she is drawn in by it’s almost magical qualities much like the family that lived there before. After she discovers the mystery of the place it only makes sense that she would use her unwanted time off and detective skills to dive in and distract herself.

4. The main female characters, Sadie, Alice, and Eleanor are all strong women with flaws. Is this the way you saw them? Did their imperfections allow you to identify or sympathize with one more than another? If so, why do you think that was?

I didn’t particularly identify or sympathize with any of the women in particular so I’m curious to see what other people think on this one!

5. What did you think of Eleanor when you first encountered her? Did your feelings about her change? In what ways and why?

At first I didn’t think much about Eleanor when she was first introduced. She didn’t seem like she was going to be a prominent

Questions from Simon and Schuster

November Book Reveal: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of The Great Midwest by  J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer’s most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller.

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life–its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.

Subscribe today to get your November box!!

November Book Reveal: The School of Essential Ingredients

14495262_2076533319239204_4288445087724873587_nThe School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect…

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

Subscribe today to get your November box!!

Book Club Discussion: You are a Badass

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. 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 were your main takeaways from the book?

I am not really one for manifesting things through thought, but rather than dwell on her points relating to that, I took away that thinking positively and upwardly (is this a word?) are a great start to achieving your goals.

Her discussion on examining self truths also resonated. She suggests thinking about things you say that start with “I always” and “I never.” I believe she calls this section “Becoming aware of your stories” and it really stuck with me. I think everyone has a tendency to define their own personality and make grand declarations about their tendencies (For example: I’m an introvert! I hate exercise!). She points out that this can be limiting and suggests breaking free of your own self defined personality boundaries.

2. Did the author’s style of writing appeal to you? Did you find it to be entertaining? Too brash?

I enjoyed her style of writing. It was a nice change from the cut and dry tone of similar motivational books I have read. The tone made it feel like she was speaking directly to you, which made the novel almost feel like being personally coached or mentored.

3. What did you think of the fact that the author ended each chapter with “Love Yourself”

I think I just kind of started jumping over this last one once I realized it was repeated at the end of each chapter. It is a good reminder though!

4. So far, have you made any changes in your own life based on the advice given in the book?

I would say I have already adopted two things.

Ask Yourself Why! I am fairly self- aware, but I have been trying even harder than usual to ask myself why I am about to say or doing something, particularly if it leans towards negative attitude. I am already catching myself more. This goes along with the section in which she discusses thinking about why you may dislike something and really break down your thought process.

Get rid of your stories! I have also been trying not to limit myself based on the own definition of my personality I have created over the years. Basically trying to let go of the grand declarations I make about myself to others.

Share your comments below!

Book Club Discussion: Better Than Before

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. 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. If you could magically, effortlessly change a few habits, which habits would you pick? Why?

I would exercise regularly, meditate, remember to floss every day and wake up earlier. All these things are important to my overall health and also my ability to have a more productive day (besides flossing). They are also the habits that I struggle with the most!

2. Are you an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel? Did the Four Tendencies help you gain a better understanding of your patterns of habit-formation?

I am an Upholder. I love to do lists, schedules and setting goals for myself. I learned more about other people’s habit formation than I think I did about my own. It helped me to realize not everyone is going to go about forming habits in the same way as me and I shouldn’t expect them to!

3. Have you ever found it easier to form a habit (for good or bad) when you were starting something new—when you were taking the first steps, when you had a clean slate?

Definitely! I’ve found the best time to start a new habit is when moving into a new place. Another great time for me is after coming back from a vacation. Taking advantage of a clean slate has really worked for me when starting new habits.

4. What are some of your treats—both healthy and unhealthy?

Naps, reading, browsing blogs, laying by the pool, organizing

Share your comments below!