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Posts Tagged ‘book club’

Giveaway Opportunity: NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Pessl_Night Film“GET READY TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK.”*

Enter for a chance to win a free advance copy of NIGHT FILM: “this summer’s Gone Girl: a completely absorbing literary thriller,”** the long-awaited second novel from Marisha Pessl, author of the New Yorker Times bestseller Special Topics in Calamity Physics

On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

*—Entertainment Weekly
**—Library Journal

Join the conversation with Marisha on Facebook and Twitter
Visit Marisha’s website

Discussion Questions: SISTERLAND by Curtis Sittenfeld

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Sittenfeld_Sisterland“A smart and sophisticated portrait . . . Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.”—The Washington Post

Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel SISTERLAND goes on sale June 25, 2013 but we have an exclusive sneak peek into the novel with discussion questions for you and your book club. Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves. With her deep empathy, keen wisdom, and unerring talent for finding the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most exceptional voices in literary fiction today.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What and where is Sisterland? If you have a sister, do you see any of your own relationship with her reflected in the relationship between Kate and Vi?

2. The novel opens with a description of the 1811 earthquake in New Madrid, although everything that follows is set in the near-present. Why do you think the novel begins in this way? How does the historical context change how we see Kate’s story?

3. Do you believe that people can have psychic powers? Have you ever experienced strong intuitions about events that happened later?

4. Do you understand why Kate tries to escape her powers? Would you prefer, like Kate, to be normal, or to be special, like Vi?

5. Kate transforms herself from Daisy Shramm to Kate Tucker. How do names define and shape us?

6. Near the end of the novel, Kate and Vi make an important discovery about their “senses” that upsets everything they thought they knew. Were you as surprised by this revelation as the twins? How do you think it might change their understanding of their childhood?

7. Do Kate and Jeremy have a good marriage?

8. Were you surprised by Kate’s choices at the end? How will her family’s life in the future be different from what it was in the past? Do you think it’s plausible that she can continue to conceal her secret indefinitely?

9. Twins are intriguing to many people. Do you think the interest they elicit is justified? Have you known twins in your own life? If you are a twin, did Sittenfeld’s portrayal of them strike you as realistic?

10. Have you read any of Curtis Sittenfeld’s other novels? If so, do you think this one is like or unlike her earlier work?

Giveaway Opportunity: YES, CHEF by Marcus Samuelsson

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Samuelsson_Yes Chef_pb“One of the great culinary stories of our time.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations. Yes, Chef chronicles Samuelsson’s journey, from his grandmother’s kitchen to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four.

But Samuelsson’s career of chasing flavors had only just begun—in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs, and, most important, the opening of Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fulfilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, and bus drivers. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.

This memoir promises to satiate your literary palette and we have finished copies you can win! Also, join the conversation with Marcus on Facebook and Twitter.

Enter for your chance to win WIFE 22 by Melanie Gideon

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Gideon_Wife 22“A skillful blend of pop-culture references, acidic humor, and emotional moments. It will take its rightful place . . . alongside Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Anna Maxted’s Getting Over It, and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Alice has been married to her husband, William, for twenty years. Though she can still remember the first time they met like it was yesterday, these days she finds herself posting things on Facebook that she used to confide to him. So when she’s invited to participate in an anonymous online survey on marriage and love, she finds that all her longings come pouring out as she dutifully answers questions under the name “Wife 22.”

Evaluating her responses is “Researcher 101,” who seems to listen to her in a way that William hasn’t in a very long time, and before she knows it, she finds herself trying hard not to e-flirt with him. Meanwhile, her elderly father is chatting on Facebook, her fifteen-year-old daughter is tweeting, and everything in her life is turning upside down.

Wife 22 is a hilariously funny, profoundly moving, and deeply perceptive novel about the ways we live and love in this technological age, from a dazzling new voice in fiction.

Follow Melanie on Twitter

“An LOL Instagram about love in a wired world.”—People

“Vibrant, au courant, and hilarious . . . brilliant!”—Adriana Trigiani

Sally Bedell Smith and the World of Queen Elizabeth II

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Bedell Smith_Elizabeth the Queen_TP
It was a surprising first encounter that piqued my interest in Queen Elizabeth II, who until that moment had been a regal and distant icon. My husband and I were introduced to her at a garden party at the British Ambassador’s residence in Washington during her state visit in 2007, and she and my husband had a strikingly spirited conversation about the Kentucky Derby, which she had seen for the first time the previous weekend. Street Sense, the winning horse, had come from 19th to first in a thrilling finish, which prompted the Queen and my husband to replay the entire race, going back and forth. I was transfixed by her animated gestures, sparkling blue eyes, and flashing smile that are familiar to her friends but rare in public. As I watched, I remembered what British artist Howard Morgan had told me years earlier after painting her portrait: “Her private side took my totally by surprise,” he said. “She talks like an Italian! She waves her hands about!”

Nine months later when Random House asked me to write a biography of the Queen, that revelatory memory sprang to mind, and I leapt at the chance to discover the woman behind the image of diamonds, velvet and ermine. I knew that that the Queen had spent her long life in her very own remarkable world, and that penetrating the royal bubble would be challenging, especially since she has had a policy for her entire reign of not granting interviews.

When I began my research, I returned to a group of key sources who had helped me when I was reporting my book about Princess Diana in the late 1990s. They not only agreed to assist me again by introducing me to more people close to the royal family, they served as my advocates in getting cooperation from Buckingham Palace. The senior staff at the Palace briefed the Queen and gave me the green light, opening access to her inner circle of friends and advisers who could describe the humanizing traits we can all relate to: her kindness, humor, spontaneity, and even coziness.

With the assistance of the Palace, I was able to watch the Queen and Prince Philip in many different settings over the course of a year, and I accumulated impressions that helped me understand how she carries out her role, and how earnestly she does her job, with great discipline and concentration in every situation.

Traveling with the Queen was particularly valuable, especially the overseas royal tour I took to Bermuda and Trinidad. She was 83 years old at the time, and her program called for long days of meeting and greeting. Her stamina was impressive, matched only by 88-year-old Prince Philip. I got a real sense of how much in sync they are, with expert choreography honed over many years in the public eye. During these trips I was also able to see the Buckingham Palace machinery on the road, get to know the Queen’s senior officials, and develop a feel for the atmosphere around her and the way her household has changed from the early days when it was run entirely by aristocrats. Her advisers include savvy young women who learned their skills in the private sector; even some of the footmen have master’s degrees.

Getting to know all the places important to the Queen further deepened my understanding: the rolling hills where she spends hours watching her racehorses work out; the countryside around Balmoral, her estate in Scotland where she escapes on long walks and rides on horseback; the stud farm where she oversees the breeding of her thoroughbreds; the modest cottage near Windsor Castle where she visits her elderly first cousin Margaret Rhodes most Sundays after church to drink a gin and Dubonnet while chatting about friends and family.

I was also fortunate to attend several dinners at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Prince of Wales Foundation. Sitting at a table decorated with George III silver gilt candelabra and sculpted centerpieces, I could immerse myself in the experience of being served by footmen in royal livery in rooms where the Queen entertains heads of state.

But the best moments were my two social encounters with the Queen at private gatherings while I was doing my research. After I had been working on the book for a year, I met her at a reception at St. James’s Palace. When I mentioned that my daughter was getting married to an Englishman in London she asked, “When is the wedding?” “The Fourth of July,” I replied. “Oh,” she said, “that’s a little dangerous.” Once more I saw the smile and the twinkle that had been so captivating on our first meeting in Washington.

A month before the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, we met again in St. James’s Palace, this time at a party given by one of the Queen’s cousins. I knew the Queen would be there, but I didn’t expect her to stay for 90 minutes, which was unusual. She was in high spirits, and she was making her way happily on her own, without any attendants running interference for her. What struck me was that here she was in her own grand palace, but she was merely another guest, which was a measure of her unexpected humility. As Margaret Rhodes explained it, the Queen can “uphold her identity o f herself as Queen and still be humble. Her inner modesty stops her from getting spoiled.”

Even as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years on the throne in 2012, that “inner modesty” was always evident. In a message on radio and television, she thanked everyone involved in the “massive challenge” of organizing the celebrations, describing them as a “humbling experience” that “has touched me deeply.”

Her unaffected joy was striking, matched by her genuine surprise. “After all these years, she is still overwhelmed by the response, which is a lovely thing,” one of her top advisers told me. At the end of my journey of discovery about the Queen, I realized that the more I had learned about her, the more I had found to admire, which made her life story inspiring for me to write.

Sally Bedell Smith is the author of bestselling biographies of William S. Paley; Pamela Harriman; Diana, Princess of Wales; John and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Bill and Hillary Clinton. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1996, she previously worked at Time and The New York Times, where she was a cultural news reporter. She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Stephen G. Smith.

A letter to book clubs from LAY THE FAVORITE author Beth Raymer

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Lay the FavoriteLay the Favorite is the true story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the birth of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business exploded, Beth  emerged with her integrity intact—wiser, sharper, and nobody’s fool. A keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted roguish types who become her mentors, her enemies, and her family, Beth depicts her insanely colorful world teeming with pathos and ecstasy. In this letter to readers, Beth shares some of the emotions she went through in putting her very personal history in writing.

Dear Reader,

Following the publication of my memoir, Lay the Favorite, I gave a reading at a bookstore in Pittsburgh. I stood behind a podium and shared stories of my journey from stripper to managing (and modeling for) adult websites, to working for gamblers and bookies. When the evening was over, I packed up my belongings. A young woman approached me. By the tension in her smile, I could tell she was nervous. After some small talk, she came clean.

“When I was twenty-three, I was a total stripper, too!” She whispered.

The woman, who was now married and living in the suburbs, was a voracious reader and had recently signed up for a writing class. She desperately wanted to tell her story but was paranoid of what others would think of her. She couldn’t bring herself to save her writing “to cloud… or even junk drive!”

Her question to me was: “How do you deal with being judged?”

© D.V. DeVincentis

© D.V. DeVincentis

Though I had a lot of fun, and made a lot of money, working in the subcultures that attracted me, I was never particularly proud of the ways I made a living. I certainly never told my family about it (they only found out about my “back-story” when they read my book). However, the shame I felt never stopped me from writing about my personal experience. I wanted to be a writer and the only way to be a writer is to make oneself vulnerable. If anything, my shame fueled my desire to put my most intimate thoughts and experiences on the page. It was the only way I knew to connect with the reader. After all, from their perspective, what’s the purpose in spending 240 pages with a character if she doesn’t let you in on her mistakes, her shortcomings, and the secrets she holds so dear?

I was raised Catholic. I am from a small town in Ohio. Was I judged? Yes.

This is something I’ve come to understand: with memoirs, more so than with novels, readers and reviewers tend to judge the writer’s personality, which somehow takes precedence over the story and the writing. Therefore, there’s something very high-stakes about giving a first-person account.

But as the old saying goes: fortune favors the bold. The way I felt the first time I held my book and, later, saw my life portrayed on the big screen, was worth all the sneers and personal attacks that came my way.

So, dear reader, I ask you this: What’s your secret? What keeps you from sharing it? Would you be willing to confess, if you got a book deal?

I hope that you will enjoy Lay the Favorite and find much to discuss in your book club. I can be in touch via e-mail or Skype.

Thank you,
Beth Raymer

Jane’s Bookshelf: The Books in My Summer Beach Bag

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

When I was a kid, summer meant long sunny days in the ocean, tons of fun with my four siblings, and lots of reading in the hammock. Those long days with few responsibilities gave me a love of summer reading that I still indulge in. Deciding what to read while on vacation can be agonizing: I want books that will keep me turning the pages, discovering new authors, or finally reading something I’ve meant to get to. Having just come back from a week at the beach, I’m excited to share my early summer reads!

My son and I read THE HUNGER GAMES together – some of it aloud and some of it by trading the book back and forth. Suzanne Collins has an incredible gift for driving a story forward; we were both utterly taken by Katniss’s prowess in the woods, strategic instincts, and fierce loyalty. I appreciated her emotional complexity more than my son did – especially when her feelings towards Peeta blossomed (which he did not approve of, but at 10 years old, love is not on your radar!) It was so much fun to discuss the moral complexity of the world Collins has created in THE HUNGER GAMES – I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy soon.

Playing Dead So many people have raved about Gillian Flynn’s writing in the past few years that I had to pick up GONE GIRL. The voices are pitch perfect and the incredible twists and turns in the plot are jaw-dropping, but so believable. Even though you know Flynn was inspired by many a true crime episode about “the missing wife,” you can’t help wondering how she transforms it into such a psychological tour de force. GONE GIRL reminded me of Julia Haeberlin’s debut novel, PLAYING DEAD, which starts with a young woman who receives a letter from someone claiming to be her mother, saying she had been kidnapped 30 years ago. What at first seems completely implausible turns out to be more deliciously complicated and suspenseful than you can imagine – plenty of great plot twists here too!

Going back to an author you haven’t read in a while is one of the pleasures of summer reading and I picked up Ann Patchett’s THE STATE OF WONDER for that very reason. I loved the worlds she creates – Minnesota in winter as compared to the Amazon jungle – but more than anything, I adored the main character, Marina Singh, who goes to find out what happened to her colleague in the jungle and comes face to face with her own memories of tragedy and heartbreak as she navigates this hot (and at times terrifying) world. In the midst of the characters’ compelling stories, Patchett also “presents an alluring interplay between civilization and wilderness, between aid and exploitation.” (Wall Street Journal)

Heat Wave And let’s not forget that summer reads are also known as beach reads—and for the quintessential beach book I turn to Nancy Thayer. Often set on Nantucket, her novels always feature wonderful female characters whose stories of family, friendship, love, and betrayal are a true delight. Every time I look at the cover of her newest paperback, HEAT WAVE, I wish I were on that beach in a red bikini! I’ll be taking another week off from work in late August – what should I take with me for my second spell of summer reading?

Your chance to win dinner with THE PARIS WIFE author Paula McLain!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Paris Wife hcYou could win an exclusive dinner for you and four members of your book club in your hometown with Paula McLain, author of the New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife! Plus, 25 runners-up will receive an autographed copy of the novel to share at their next book club. Enter now through July 13th for your chance to win!

Click here to enter

See Official Rules for more details.

Jane’s Bookshelf: Historical Fiction as a Window to the Past

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

I’ve been thinking about historical fiction lately. It seems to me that when I was growing up, there were three kinds of historical novels. First were the classics that might have been written contemporaneously to the time they depicted but were historical to a late 20th century reader, whether it was Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE or Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE. Then there were the books that explored life in ancient cultures like Mary Renault’s THE KING MUST DIE or Irving Stone’s THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY. And of course, there were portraits of kings and queens of yore in the novels of Jean Plaidy and Margaret George, among others. Today, the classics remain and writers still write these kinds of novels: just this past year saw the publications of THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller, BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel, and LIONHEART by Sharon Kay Penman, for example.

ParisWife_hc We’ve also seen the flowering of a different kind of historical fiction. Books like LOVING FRANK by Nancy Horan, THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain, and THE 19TH WIFE by David Ebershoff start with the story of real women who have extraordinary men in their lives, whether it be Frank Lloyd Wright, Ernest Hemingway, or Brigham Young. And yet in the hands of these storytellers, you don’t feel you are reading lives recreated in fiction, but rather that you are meeting women whose stories enlighten our understanding of these men and their lives. That these stories are based on real people’s lives makes the reading experience that much more vivid, and gives us a deep understanding of the human condition, of love and betrayal.

It’s not just women romantically involved with famous men whose lives have made for great historical novels. Melanie Benjamin created an indelible, fresh portrait of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s novels, in ALICE I HAVE BEEN. Her latest novel THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB brings to life AutobiographyMrsTomThumbLavinia Warren Bump, who became a worldwide celebrity after marrying General Tom Thumb. Benjamin portrays 19th century America so vividly I often felt I was reading a painting. Sometimes I think that this new era of historical fiction began with two novels that married imaginary characters and real people: GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE by Susan Vreeland and GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier. Both have Vermeer as the historical figure at their centers; one created the lives touched by an invented painting while the other imagined the life of his servant. I love both—I tried and failed to acquire Tracy Chevalier, but was lucky enough to become first Susan Vreeland’s paperback editor and now work with her from the start of every book.

I’ve found the way novelists intertwine what actually happened with their own fictional worlds adds nuance to a book club discussion. I’ve always loved history and fiction—so historical fiction is perfect for me. I’d love to hear about some of your favorites, I know I’ll want to add them to my T.B.R. pile! Let me know what they are in the comments section below or on Twitter at @JaneatRandom.

Enter for a chance to win a call with Suze Orman and your book club!

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

For your next book club pick, why not address head on the thing that we have the most trouble talking about? (Hint: It’s not sex.)

MONEY!

MoneyClass_PBA lot of different topics can come up in a book club, but does yours ever discuss money? Do you have financial concerns you’re afraid to admit to your friends, family, or even yourself? Why is it that we can speak frankly to each other about intimate subjects, yet the topic of money is off-limits? Suze Orman can help you put the subject of money on the table with her # 1 bestseller The Money Class, which is THE conversation starter about money. In the book you will learn:

How to find the courage to stand in your truth—and why it is a place of power.

What daily actions will restore the word “hope” to your vocabulary.

Everything you need to know about taking care of your family, your home, your career, and planning for retirement—no matter where you are in your life or where the economy is heading.

Need further convincing?

What if Suze Orman joined your book club’s discussion?

Tell us why, in 200 words or less, YOU (and your book club) urgently need Suze Orman to deliver her trademark straight talk to your book club and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a 30-minute chat with Suze, via phone. You and the members of your book club will also receive copies of The Money Class, now revised and updated in paperback. Enter here!

Join Suze on Facebook and Follow her on Twitter, and Learn more about The Money Class.

Click here for the official rules.

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