Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Club Forum #32: Ashes Of The Earth

Book Selection Status: Read
Month: October 2012

Genre: Dystopian fiction, mystery
Book of the Month: Ashes Of The Earth
Author: Eliot Pattison
Question source: N/A

 Discussion Questions

Questions Coming Soon...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Club Forum #31: Summer Session

Book Selection Status: READ
Month: September 2012
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Book of the Month: Summer Session 
Author: Merry Jones
Question source: N/A

Discussion Questions:
  1. What did you like and dislike about this novel?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Club Forum #30: The Saving Graces

Book Selection Status: READ
Month: August 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: The Saving Graces 
Author: Patricia Gaffney

Discussion Questions

  1. Which Grace do you relate to most, and why? What do you define as "grace"? Where do you find it in your life?
  2. Why do you think the author starts and ends the story from Emma's point of view? Would you consider Emma the main character?
  3. When Lee is describing Isabel for the first time, she says, "Some people are born knowing things the rest of us spend our lives trying to learn." What kinds of things do you think she's talking about? Do you agree with Lee? What do you think Isabel had, or knew, that the other Graces didn't?
  4. The night Emma finds out that Mick Draco is married, she describes men as "speed bumps ... aggravating distractions scattered along life's otherwise pretty nice highway," and also says that good women are easier to find. Do you think she really believes this? Have you ever felt the way Emma says she does? Do you think men feel that way about women -- that, on the whole, men are the better sex -- or is this a uniquely feminine perspective?
  5. At one point, Rudy says about Curtis, "I tried not loving him -- just for a second; an experiment. To my horror, it worked." What does she mean by this? That her love for him isn't real? What do you think of Rudy and Curtis's relationship, over all? How did your feelings change about him over the course of the book? When he told Rudy he has leukemia, did you believe him? What do you think Rudy's dream means?
  6. There's a remarkably small amount of jealousy and possessiveness among the Graces. Do you think this is realistic? Have you had the same experiences with your women friends?
  7. When you tally it up among the four of them, the Graces experience just about every tragedy known to womankind -- cancer, infidelity, alcoholism and drug abuse, mental illness, infertility, and devastating heartbreak, to name a few. Do you think the author has woven these themes in realistically? Would you say this group of women experiences more than their share of suffering? What about joy?
  8. The only time the idea of romantic love between women comes up in the book is via Jenny, Henry's lesbian plumber mom. Why do you think the author wrote Jenny into the story? What purpose does she
    serve? Do you think Jenny really assumes The Saving Graces is founded on the same basic ideas as the women's group/commune she belonged to in the late '70s? Is it? If so, how is it the same, and how is it
  9. Have you ever belonged to a formal group like The Saving Graces? Do you think it's difficult to form close friendships with women later in life, after school and other settings? How do you think friendships among women change as they age?
  10. At one point, Emma describes Isabel as her "mentor, although neither of us would ever say that out loud, and certainly we'd never use that word." Do you think that's an accurate way to describe their
  11. What about mothering -- is Isabel the mother figure in The Saving Graces? Or is Lee? Do you think any one member takes more than she gives, or is it all pretty equal?
  12. Why do you think Lee holds out for so long trying to have her own baby? Do you think she's justified in feeling so angry and desperate, especially when she has a loving husband, a good job, a nice home -- and other people have much bigger problems, like her friend Isabel, who's dying? How do you think Lee's experience with infertility affects her reactions to what's going on with Isabel?
  13. Isabel says "sometimes kindness is as excruciating as cruelty." What do you think she means by that?
  14. Why do you think the author wrote in Isabel's encounter with Sheldon Herman, the old man on the bench?
  15. When Isabel and Kirby sleep together for the first time, she's able to forget for a moment that she's dying -- then abruptly remembers again. Do you think that sex and death are related in any way?
  16. What do you think of the scene where the Graces take on Curtis? Is it realistic? Is it everybody's fantasy, in some way, to have their best friends there for them in the hardest moments? Can you really have help with these things, or do you need to face them alone?
  17. Do you think Emma and Mick will make it as a couple? Or were they brought together by the desire for something they couldn't have, and, now that they have it, their passion will be diminished?
  18. Which of the Graces do you think grew the most over the course of the book, and in what ways?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Club Forum #29: The Chaperone

Book Selection Status: READ 
Month: July 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty

Discussion Questions
  1. The Chaperone opens with Cora Carlisle waiting out a rainstorm in a car with a friend when she hears about Louise Brooks for the first time. What do we learn about Cora in this scene? What does it tell us about her and the world she lives in? Why does Laura Moriarty, the author, choose to open the novel this way? Why do you think she waits to introduce us to Brooks?

  2. When we first meet Louise Brooks, she seems to be the complete opposite of Cora, but the two women form an unlikely bond anyway. Are they really so dissimilar? What does Cora learn from Louise? Do you think Louise learns anything from Cora?

  3. When Cora arrives in New York, the city is worlds away from her life in Wichita. How much do you think Cora actually embraces New York? When she returns to Wichita, what does she bring back with her from New York? What parts of her stayed true to Wichita all along?

  4. The limits of acceptable behavior for women were rapidly changing in the 1920s, and both Cora Carlisle and Louise Brooks, in their own ways, push against these boundaries. Discuss the different ways the two women try to change society’s expectations for women. Is one more successful than the other? What are the values involved in each woman’s approach?

  5. Cora becomes frustrated with the hypocrisy of the women in her Wichita circle of friends and yet she herself chooses to keep details about her own life secret. Do you think she should be more open about her life choices? What are the risks for her if she were to be more open?

  6. Cora Carlisle hopes to find the secret of her past in New York City but discovers that the truth doesn’t align with either her expectations or her memory of the past. Why do you think Laura Moriarty has chosen to leave Cora’s history ambiguous? What does this tell you about Cora? How has Cora’s attitude toward her past changed by the end of The Chaperone?

  7. Cora narrates the events of the book from a perspective of many years later. What juxtapositions does this allow her? By placing Cora’s narration at a time of radical social change, what parallels is Moriarty making?

  8. Think about Louise Brooks’s behavior. How much of it would be considered scandalous today? What values has society held on to? In what ways has society changed?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Club Forum #28: The Castaways

Book Selection Status: READ
Month: June 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: The Castaways
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Question source: N/A

Discussion Questions:

This is a "Free For All" book review please comment and give your opinion about this novel. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Club Forum #27: Cutting For Stone

Book Selection Status: READ
Month: May 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: Cutting for Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese

Discussion Questions

 1. What did you enjoy most about Cutting for Stone?

 2. Who was your favorite character? Why?

 3. What was "missing" in the main characters' lives (Thomas, Ghosh, Hema,  Genet, Marion, Shiva)? What was found?

 4. What was the saddest loss in this tale?

 5. What did you learn about Ethiopia's history as a country that you did not know before?

6. Did you empathize with Genet's choices? Why or why not?

7. What did you think of Thomas Stone's back story? Did it help you understand his character's actions and motivations?

8. How does Marion and Shiva's characteristics and choices as twins reflect the stories' themes about division, reconciliation, and unity?

9. Were you satisfied with the conclusion? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Club Forum #26: Home Front

Book Selection Status:  READ    
Month: April 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: Home Front
Author: Kristin Hannah
Question source: N/A

Discussion Questions:

1. Based on your interpretation can you describe the personality traits of each member of the Zarkades family?

2. What did you like most about this book? Was there a specific chapter in this book that peaked your interest? Why?

3. What circumstances aided in the deterioration of Michael and Joleen Zarkades marriage?

4. How would you rate their parenting skills?

5. How did the war affect the Zarkades family and Michael and Joleen's marriage?

6. How did this book affect your view about marriage and family in general?

7. If you were to meet these characters, what advice would you offer them?

8. How do you feel about the conclusion of this story?  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Club Forum #25: The Boy In The Suitcase

Book Selection Status:  READ 
Month: March 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: The Boy In The Suitcase
Author: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis
Question source:

Discussion Questions:

 1. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to
"get into it"? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored...?

2. Describe the main characters—their personality traits, motivations, inner qualities. Why do they do what they do? Are their actions justified? Do you admire or disapprove of them? Do they remind you of people you know?

3. Do the main characters change by the end of the book? Do they grow, or come to learn something about themselves and how the world works?
4. Is the plot engaging—does the story interest you? Is this a plot-driven book: a fast-paced page-turner? Or does the story unfold slowly with a focus on character development? Were you surprised by the plot's complications? Or did you find it predictable, even formulaic?

5. Talk about the book's structure. Is it a continuous story...or interlocking short stories? Does the time-line more forward chronologically...or back and forth between past and present? Does the author use a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints? Why might the author have choosen to tell the story the way he or she did—and what difference does it make in the way you read or understand it?

6. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? Don't forget to talk about the title, often a clue to a novel's theme.

7. What passages strike you as insightful, even profound? Perhaps a bit of dialog that's funny or poignant...or encapsulates a character? Maybe comments that state the book's thematic concerns?

8. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not...and how would you change it?

9. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?

10. Has this novel changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different ideas about people or a certain part of the world?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Club Forum #24: The Bird House

Book Selection Status:  READ

Month: February 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: The Bird House
Author: Kelly Simmons
Discussion Questions: 

1. Ann reveals within the first chapter that her memory is failing. How did this confession affect your reading? Was Ann an unreliable narrator? Explain your answer.

2. Bird houses are a recurring theme throughout the novel—besides the title itself, Ellie chooses bird houses for her "Aspect" school project. Do you think the bird houses hold some sort of symbolism? Why or why not?

3. Throughout the novel, we get bits and pieces of what Ann's husband, Theo, was like. Do you think Ann is fair with his depiction? If the novel had been narrated by Theo, how do you think he would have described himself? How would his perspective differ from Ann's?

4. In the beginning, Ann describes her daughter-in-law, Tinsley, as almost perfect. She even attributes her granddaughter's wonderful demeanor to Tinsley. When do you see Ann's opinion begin to change? Why do you think it changes so drastically? Do you think they will ever completely resolve their differences?

5. Ann thinks the world of Tom and Ellie. In her mind, they can do no wrong. Do you feel the same? Or do you think she is fiercely loyal to them because they are her flesh and blood?

6. Adultery recurs throughout the novel and is also a shared commonality between Ann, her mother, and Tinsley. How do you think this bonds the women together? Does this shared connection help them relate to one another? Or could it also have an opposite effect on their relationships?

7. Ann, her mother, and Tinsley all have completely different personalities and lead completely different lives. What do you think lead each woman to cheat on her partner?

8. There were multiple instances throughout the novel where Ann's daughter, Emma, acts in an odd, and even malicious, manner. Do you think this is a result or an effect of the anger and resentment she feels for losing her daughter at such a young age?

9. Do you blame Ann for her daughter's death? Do you think Ann blames herself? Why do you think she kept this a secret for such a long time?

10. When Ann confronts Tinsley about her affair, she claims to have the best intentions. Do you agree with how Ann handled this discussion? If you were in Ann's position, what would you have done?

11. Ann never gave her father the chance to give his side of the story, and after his death she discovers he was not her biological father. Do you think she should have given him the chance to explain himself? And do you think this was what he was trying to tell her?

12. Ann reveals a great deal about her past, and even present, to Ellie. Do you think this relationship was inappropriate? Why or why not?

13. On page 272, Ann says to Ellie: "'If you ever have to choose between a man who's serious and a man who's fun, choose the fun one. Promise me.'" Do you agree with Ann? Who do you think was the "fun one" and who was the serious one? Theo or Peter?

14. Did you like that the novel was told from only Ann's perspective? Or would you have a more objective, third person narrator?'

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Club Forum #23: Girl In Translation

Book Selection Status:  READ 
Month: January 2012
Genre: Fiction
Book of the Month: Girl In Translation
Author: Jean Kwok
Discussion Questions:
    1. Throughout Girl in Translation, the author uses creative spelling to show Kimberly’s mis-hearing and misunderstanding of English words. How does the language of the novel evolve as Kimberly grows and matures? Do you see a change in the respective roles that English and Chinese play in the narrative as it progresses?

    2. The word translation figures prominently in the title of the novel, and learning to translate between her two languages is key to Kimberly’s ability to thrive in her new life. Does she find herself translating back and forth in anything other than language? Clothing? Priorities? Expectations? Personality or behavior? Can you cite instances where this occurs, and why they are significant to the story as a whole?

    3. Kimberly has two love interests in the book. How are the relationships that Matt and Curt offer different? Why do you think she ultimately chooses one boy over the other? What does that choice say about her? Can you see a future for her with the other boy? What would change?

    4. In many ways Kimberly takes over the position of head of household after her family moves to New York. Was this change in roles inevitable? How do you imagine Ma feels about it? Embarrassed? Grateful? In which ways does Ma still fulfill the role of mother?

    5. Kimberly often refers to her father, and imagines how her life might have been different, easier, if he had lived. Do you think she is right?

    6. Kimberly’s friend Annette never seems to grasp the depths of Kimberly’s poverty. What does this say about her? What lesson does this experience teach Kimberly? Is Kimberly right to keep the details of her home life a secret?

    7. Kimberly believes that devoting herself to school will allow her to free her family from poverty. Does school always live up to her expectations? Where do you think it fails her? How does it help her succeed? Can you imagine the same character without the academic talent? How would her life be different? What would remain the same? Is Kimberly right to believe that all of her potential lies in her talent for school? Must qualities like ambition, drive, hope, and optimism go hand in hand with book smarts?

    8. Think about other immigrant stories. How is Kimberly’s story universal? How is it unique? How does Kimberly’s Chinese-American story compare to other immigrant stories? Would it change if she were from a different country or culture?

    9. Kimberly lives in extreme poverty. Was anything about her circumstances surprising to you? How has reading Girl in Translation affected your views of immigration? How can you apply these lessons in your community?

    10. The story is set in the 1980s. Do you think immigrant experiences are much different today? What has changed? What has remained the same?