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.

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