Month: July 2012

Discussion Questions for The Glass Castle

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Our book club read The Glass Castle this month. Here are some questions from the publisher to help facilitate book club discussions.

Discussion Questions
1. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?

2. Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn’t believe he’ll ever build it? (p. 238).

3. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: “You’re safe now” (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?

4. Rex Walls often asked his children, “Have I ever let you down?” Why was this question (and the required “No, Dad” response) so important for him — and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?

5. Jeannette’s mother insists that, no matter what, “life with your father was never boring” (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?

6. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an “excitement addict”? (p. 93).

7. Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect?

8 Describe Jeannette’s relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another’s lives.

9. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?

10. The two major pieces of the memoir — one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia — feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family — and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book’s tone?

11. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is?

12. What character traits — both good and bad — do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette’s life?

13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?

14. Like Mary Karr’s Liars’ Club and Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’, Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were their other comparable memoirs that came to mind? What distinguishes this book?

(Questions issued by publisher.)

What I Am Reading Now: The Watchers by Jon Steele

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Beneath Lausanne Cathedral, in Switzerland, there is a secret buried before time began, something unknown to angels and men, until now…

Marc Rochat watches over the city at night from the belfry of the cathedral. He lives in a world of shadows and “beforetimes” and imaginary beings.

Katherine Taylor, call girl and daydreamer, is about to discover that her real-life fairy tale is too good to be true.

Jay Harper, private detective, wakes up in a crummy hotel room with no memory. When the telephone rings and he’s offered a job, he knows he has no choice but to accept.

Three lives, one purpose: save what’s left of paradise before all hell breaks loose.

My Thoughts on The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

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When I picked up this book, I read the reviews on the back and was excited to read a hilariously funny novel as promised by the reviewers at Oprah and Self Magazine.

After about 150 pages, I realized that something had gone horribly wrong.  The main character of the book, Ellen, was clever and had a few witty thoughts, but. . .  hilarious?  This is a book about a stalker.  I was missing something.  So I looked at the back of the book and realized that the reviews were for the author’s previous novel: What Alice Forgot.  Woops!  Well, I cannot wait to read What Alice Forgot.

But, back to The Hypnotist’s Love Story. . .

Ellen is 35 (hooray for a book about a woman!), a hypnotherapist who works out of her home, and she has many failed relationships behind her.  She has entered her fourth serious relationship, and she is dedicated to making this relationship work.  But, there is a problem.  Actually, a couple of problems.  He is a widower, and a woman that he dated for three years after his wife died has turned into his stalker.

Ellen is in love, and she is willing to work through the fact that he is still strongly in love with his dead wife and that he has a stalker that shows up at every date, every vacation, and even in her house.

This book trades off between Ellen’s naration and the stalker’s point of view.  It’s pretty fascinating to find out why she chooses to stalk Ellen and Patrick and how it has affected her life.  She’s full of rage and so angry because Patrick wants her to go away.  How can she go away?  She existed, they existed as a family, and she does not want that to go away.  It shows you how easy it is to go a little crazy.

Though I greatly enjoyed the book, it does move slowly in parts, and I found myself heavily skimming around page 245.  I skipped ahead to about page 350.  I just needed to get Ellen to a nice, safe place and a happy ending!

What I’m Reading Now: The Hypnotist’s Love Story

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So far I am loving this book and am ever so sad that I am teaching a class right now and also have four kids. I could get some serious reading done if the world would just go away.

What Liane says on her website:

Many years ago I went out with a man who was being stalked by his ex-girlfriend. I was intrigued. After all, when you think of a stalker the image that normally comes to mind is a creepy (probably hairy) man lurking in basement. How could a seemingly normal, successful career woman behave in this extraordinary way? I wrote down the words “Ordinary Stalker” as a possible idea for a novel.

I wanted to create a believable, flawed character who is stalking a previous partner. Another subject that had always intrigued me is hypnotism. I decided the novel’s other main character would be a hypnotherapist. It was a wonderful excuse to go off and get myself hypnotised all in the name of research.

The result is The Hypnotist’s Love Story. It’s about Ellen, a hypnotherapist, who begins a relationship with a single father who is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend Saskia. After I wrote the first three chapters, I thought, Mmm, I think I’m accidentally writing a thriller. But although it does have elements of suspense, The Hypnotist’s Love Story is really a contemporary story about the murky areas between right and wrong, and the lines we’ll cross for love.

Opportunities at Deseret News

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I have had the opportunity to review two books for Deseret News in the last two weeks. Both were in the print edition (I have been told that is a very high compliment) as well as online. You can check them out here:

and here

My Thoughts on Perfectly Matched by Webber

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Sometimes for my birthday I buy a book, sit at a coffee shop with an extra large hot chocolate and a chocolate muffin and relax. It’s a little present that I give to myself on my birthday if my birthday falls on a weekend. There is no greater compliment that I can give to an author than I picked their book to enjoy.

This year I picked Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber. I love the Lucy Valentine series. The books are full of laugh out loud humor, romance, mystery, intrigue — all wrapped into one little package. Webber announced awhile ago that she was shelving Lucy Valentine in order to try her hand at a different series. I think that the outcry made her change her mind. But, that said, it is easy to see that this book was written quickly. The ending, while interesting, does not feel complete and there are some loose plot lines that never got tied up at the end. She released this book first as an e-book, and an inexpensive one at that, and I believe that the paperback has only recently hit shelves. All these factors show that this book was not done with the same thought and time as the other Lucy Valentine books, and it shows. I still loved it, though!

What I’m Reading Now: Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber

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The heat is on… When Boston psychic Lucy Valentine finds herself involved with a group of eccentric mediums trying to fine tune their abilities, she is convinced a rare spring heat wave has flushed all the local crazies out of hiding.

Adding to her theory is her newest client in the Lost Loves division of Valentine, Inc., her family’s lucrative matchmaking firm. He’s an animal whisperer who hires Lucy to locate his soul mate because his cat told him so.

Finding his purrfect match, however, isn’t as easy as it seems.

But craziest of all is the Beantown Burner, a serial arsonist who is targeting private eye Sam Donahue, brother of Lucy’s boyfriend, Sean. With the help of her kooky psychic group, Lucy must tap into hidden abilities to catch the firebug before the fires turn deadly.

She never expected to discover that the motive behind the flames hits a little too close to home…and dangerously close to her heart.

My Thoughts On The Sense of An Ending by Barnes

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When Tony is in school, he has two close friends. Their close friendship of three expands to four when an gifted boy, Adrian, begins to study at their school.

When Tony studies at the University, he meets Veronica. She’s mysterious and flirty and drives him crazy for about two years. Awhile after he meets her family and she meets his boyhood friends, they break up. Tony is later stunned to find out that Veronica and Adrian have started dating. Tony sends them a letter and only finds out three decades later the consequences of that letter on Adrian, on Veronica, on their family members.

The back cover had a review that stated this was the shortest and longest book she has ever read. I completely agree. This book is told entirely through Tony’s point of view, and he is an interesting intellectual. He thinks about things, rather deeply, and you want to stop and ponder every few paragraphs.

He thinks deeply, but not very clearly. Three decades later Veronica keeps telling him “You never got it and you never will”. I agreed with her. I SAW what was happening in the book, what was being laid out, and I was frustrated with Tony for not keeping up. “Come on, Tony!” I thought. “Think about it. Think about why the mother had the journal. Think, think, think.”

It was an interesting psychological journey, but I would never refer this book to a friend. It has some harsh language in it and was not very clean sexually. Even though the swearing is British, you still get the general idea, and it’s not good.