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”

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.