Month: May 2010

Discussion Questions For Gift From The Sea

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Questions by LitLovers

1. Perhaps the best place to start is to discuss some of your favorite passages in Gift (you did underline, star or highlight as you read, didn’t you?) and what they mean…or mean to you. Here’s one for starters:

I want…to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible…. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.

2. Is this strictly a woman’s book? Why…or why not? What wisdom, if any, might a man find in its pages? If you are a woman, would you urge a man to read it? If you are a man, were you hesitant to read the book? What did you experience as you read it?

3. Is this a book for our times, 35-40 years into the woman’s movement? Does it speak to modern life—less or more so than when it was first written?

4. What does Anne mean when she speaks of the dangers of a “life of multiplicity”?

5. Discuss these two (separate) passages:

I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolute tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden?

Neither is the answer in dissipating our time and energy in more purposeless occupations, more accumulations which supposedly simplify life but actually burden it, more possessions which we have not time to use or appreciate, more diversions to fill up the void.

The subject in both passages is simplicity. How is simplicity a pre-requisite for a spiritual life? Even more important, how can any of us achieve simplicity in our own crowded, 21st-century lives? Can you?

6. How is life like the sea shell in Anne’s hands—what lessons does she draw from it? Or, put another way, what is the symbolic significance of the book’s title?

7. Anne says that marriage is a “web” as much as it is a “bond.” What does she mean? How does a marriage change through time?

8. Discuss this quotation she uses by Saint Exupery—”Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” What does it mean?

9. Do you agree with this statement from the book: “woman’s normal occupations are counter to creative life, or contempla-tive life, or saintly life”? If you’ve read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, in what ways is that book similar to Lindbergh’s?

10. Does Anne’s message have personal meaning for you? What have you taken away from her book that might apply to your own life?

South Jordan Book Club Selection: Gifts From The Sea

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Writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the daughter of a respected U.S. diplomat, was vaulted into celebrity by her marriage to aviator Charles Lindbergh. The couple’s travels in the early days of globe-trotting aviation drew breathless and often relentless attention from the media.

Putting her literary talents on display before an adoring public, Anne Lindbergh also produced a list of best-selling books.

Yet marriage to a vivid figure was not easy. The spotlight made Anne Lindbergh uneasy even before the 1932 kidnapping and murder of her first-born son. The infant was missing for more than two months, amid a hail of ransom notes, before his body was discovered near the couple’s New Jersey home.

Newspapers covered the case as “the crime of the century” and were equally omnipresent at the 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was executed for the murder in 1936.

As World War II approached, coverage of the Lindberghs took another turn, as Charles Lindbergh offered generally admiring reports on Nazi Germany’s development of the airplane. As the full import of Hitler’s designs became clear, critics decried Lindbergh as a Nazi apologist.

On Florida’s Captiva Island, Anne Lindbergh enjoyed a brief respite from the obligations of family and career. There, using the shells on the beach for inspiration, she reflected on the life of the American woman in the middle of the 20th century.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett — My Thoughts

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I really enjoyed this book.  I loved all of the characters.  I feel that if I drove down to Jackson, Mississippi in the 60s, I would be able to pick out Skeeter, Milly, Abilene, Hilly and certainly Miss Celia.  The character development is very strong, very much like Stones From A River.

While the book is great, it was not a fast read for me.  The subject matter is heavy.  The stories shared with Skeeter and experiences in this book are heavy.  It was very easy to put down and to want a break from.

There are many stories unreolved at the end of the book.  Does Miss Celia ever find a friend?  Does Miss Hilly get ousted from her position on the League?  Does Skeeter find a fabulous man in New York?  I hope that Ms. Stockett revisits Jackson in a few years.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett — What I’m Reading Now

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Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn’s new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

Caught by Harlan Coben — My Thoughts

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I love anything by Harlan Coben.  I am never disappointed, and this book was not an exception.  I picked it up from the library on Saturday morning, ignored my family, food, baby, diapers. . .and finished late that evening.

Having recently finished a book where I did not like the heroine, hallelujah!, I liked one of the main characters, Wendy.  For Coben fans, she seems to be a female Myron.  I liked her courage and her flippancy.  When accused of. . .something. . .she invites the accuser to. . .do something.  And, trust me on this, it was a great moment. 

In the beginning of Caught, Wendy “catches” a popular kids counselor chatting online with an underage girl.  When he goes to the home, she steps out with the cameras, ala a MSNBC Special Report.

But, of course, things are not as they seem, all the way through the book.  I really enjoyed the end.  I was hoping something like that happened, even though the evidence (blood!  fibers!) warned otherwise. 

Many of the questions are answered with a tight little bow at the end.  You find out what happened to the popular teen, Haley.  You find out why Dan was set-up.  You find out the mytery from their college years.  There’s closure on everything except for where the money went.  I have to admit, it bothers me.  There’s $2 million out there somewhere, and at the end of the book I still do not know where it is.

For Win fans, he’s in this book, as dashing and as helpful as always!

I loved this book and look forward to the next one!

My Interview With Harlan Coben After The Release Of Hold Tight

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I met you once at a book signing a few years ago.  I brought you a Yoo-hoo and was going to give it to you to prove my true “fan”-ness, when I realized that everyone else had the same idea.  Can you ever go to an event without someone bringing you some chocolate milk?

Uh rarely.  I wasn’t smart.  I should have made Myron drink twelve-year old Scotch.

You are my “go-to” author – someone that I can always refer a friend to and I know that they will also love the book.  When I refer a friend to your books, I have them start with “Tell No One”.  Which book would you have a new reader start with?

I’m the worst person to ask.  Today my answer is HOLD TIGHT.  But yeah, TELL NO ONE is a good pick too.

Tell No One was made into a movie in  France and things are in motion to make a TV series with the Myron Bolitar series.  Do you currently or plan to get involved in the casting decisions?  How much remains in your control and how much do you hand over?

I have almost no control.  They do sometimes listen to me though.

Who do you think would be the most difficult to cast – finding the perfect Myron or the perfect Win?

Perfect Myron.  He’s the lead and very difficult to cast.

There is a shift in your writing between “Darkest Fear” and “Tell No One”.  To be honest, the language in the books was cleaned up a bit.  Was that a conscious decision on your part?

To some degree.  Some people get offended by four-letter words and I challenged myself to write a book without them.  That’s how it started.

You always have interesting stories about how books come into your mind.  How did “Hold Tight” come to exist?

Friends of mine confessed that they’d put spyware on their 15 year old son’s computer.  At first I was aghast, but then I saw the gray line.  I wondered what would happen if a message came up that not only changed their lives but reverberated throughout the community, tearing into the lives of five families.  That was the start.

How different is each book that you write from the one you had in your head when you began writing?
Pretty different.  That’s a good thing.  Part of writing is trying to reach a stage of Nirvana you can never achieve – and thus, you want to try again.

How do you try to top yourself with each book?  Do you feel pressure?

Always.  The pressure is self-inflicted though: I want to get better.  I want each book to be my best.  When I stop wanting that – when I don’t feel that pressure anymore — I think I will be in big trouble.

How can you get any writing done while simultaneously raising four kids?

The negatives are obvious, but there are positives too.  When I do get the time, I have to focus.  I have to concentrate.  The kids also understand that this is my job.  Other fathers may travel farther to work, but this is what I do.  They get that and are pretty understanding.

Is one of your books closest to you personally?

This may sound self-serving but HOLD TIGHT is probably my most personal book.  The issues that Mike and Tia have to deal with are ones that my own family is beginning to face.  I love the fact that HOLD TIGHT is not only a compulsive page-turner but a story that will linger and that will make you think.

When are we going to see Myron Bolitar again?

Can you keep a secret?  I think he may be back next year.  Shh.

What are some of the keys to writing thrillers that are so absorbing readers stay up all night to finish them?

To paraphrase Elmore Leonard’s wonderful quote on writing: “I try to cut out all the parts you’d normally skip.”  On every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word, I ask myself, “Is this compelling?  Is this moving the story forward?”  It doesn’t mean you can’t have descriptions or themes – I do – but even those have to draw the reader in and grip them.

What literary character do you most identify with?

Myron Bolitar.  That may sound self-serving, but the truth is, most of our series lead characters are us with wish-fulfillment – at least, at the start.  As the years have gone by, Myron has become less an alter ego and more a friend.  He has also gone through hell and back.  I don’t think I’d want to change places with him.

What books have changed your life?

Doesn’t every book, even crummy ones, do to some extent? Or is that too existential an answer?

Caught by Harlan Coben: What I’m Reading Now

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17-year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.

Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.

In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this story—or the motives of the people around her.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline — My Thoughts

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I went into this book not knowing that it was one of a series and that these characters were well known to fans of the author.  For that reason, I found the character development weak if this book is to be considered on its own.  There are characters and side storylines I did not understand, found unnecessary and even distracting.

That said, it is an interesting thriller.  There is a lot of dialogue, which I loved.  The book moves quickly and you do want to see Alice caught and Bennie restored back into the life that Alice tried to steal.  I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I had read all of the earlier ones.  However, I did not find the characters to be so engaging that I want to know more.  The heroine, Bennie, is pretty unlovable, and who wants to read more about an unlovable heroine?

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline

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From  It was bound to happen: after legal eagle Bennie Rosato saved her sinister twin sister, Alice, from a murder rap in Mistaken Identity (1999) and discovered Alice impersonating her in Dead Ringer (2003), Alice decides to up the stakes.

She invites Bennie over for dinner, drugs her, and buries her alive, intent on taking over her twin’s life for a few days and stealing her fortune. As Bennie struggles to break out of the casket, Alice, pretending to be Bennie, gets a restraining order against her “dangerous” twin and sets into motion the transfer of Bennie’s money to a bank in the Bahamas.

In order to throw Mary DiNunzio, a sharp lawyer at Bennie’s firm, off the track, Alice promotes her to partner. A few curveballs get thrown Alice’s way, including the reappearance of Grady Wells, Bennie’s ex-boyfriend, who has come to regret their breakup. Bennie manages to fight her way out of the coffin but finds that reclaiming her life is no easy matter.

A subplot involving Mary’s search for a house and her fears about her father’s infidelity detracts from the novel’s energy, but overall, Scottoline’s latest is a pulse-pounding thriller, certain to please fans of her Rosato & Associates series. –Kristine Huntley

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare — My Thoughts

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In the fantasy genre, there seem to be a few heavyweights. Harry Potter will always reign supreme. The Hunger Games is a personal favorite. I finished the first book and could not wait to read the second. I still cannot wait to read the third when it debuts. The Lightning thief was a good, entertaining story, but I was not clamoring to read the rest of the series. Of course, there’s also Twilight. Those books still have my respect as I could not wait for each book to come out and am excited about all of the movies. And then there’s City of Bones. . .

So, let’s just get the eeewwwww out of the way in regard to the Jace storyline. That just seemed to be unnecessary.

But what a story! Demons, vampires, werewolves, fairies, all in one story! What an imagination, what a story!

Again, I did not like the Jace storyline. I did like Simon. I loved his dialogue and his dedication, and the fact that he is an unlikely hero.  I loved any part of the book that had him in it. I did not like how things were not resolved at the end of the book.  Even the cup!  Just resolve the cup! I understand that there are two other books out there, but I would like a little more resolution.

It’s no Harry Potter. Or Hunger Games. Or Twilight. But I did like it more than The Lightning Thief.