Random House Readers Circle
Right Curve
Sidebar topper
Divider
Divider
Divider
Divider

Posts Tagged ‘book clubs’

Reader’s Guide: THE BOLEYN DECEIT by Laura Andersen

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Andersen_The Boleyn Deceit

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. In the opening chapter of the novel, Minuette writes: “William has commanded [John Dee] to give a private reading of our stars. Only the four of us— for it would not do to let our secrets, past or future, slip into wider circulation.” Yet, she keeps a journal that details many of their secrets. Do you think it is dangerous for her to do so? Would you, in her place?

2. When they meet with John Dee, Minuette reflects, “We all have motives that are less than pure.” Do you agree? Do you think that the nature of the court made it impossible to be anything but self-serving at heart?

3. At one point Dominic says to Minuette, “Give me the word, and I’ll go straight to William myself and tell him the truth.” To which Minuette responds, “We can’t just throw this in his face. He’s not ready to hear it.” Why do you think Minuette is so set against being honest with William? Is it solely because she wishes to spare his feelings? Was there ever a moment when Minuette or Dominic could have (or should have) told William about their relationship?

4. Ironically, though she is against confessing to William, it is Minuette who proposes the di praesenti marriage, arguing that “the court live[s] by its own rules.” Do you think she is being rational, or hopelessly naïve? What’s your opinion on how they handled the situation, and how do you predict the news of their secret marriage will be met by William? By Elizabeth?

5. It is interesting that Dominic and Minuette never turn to Elizabeth for help or advice on their situation, especially given her ability to be incredibly rational and less volatile than her brother. Why do you think this is?

6. Elizabeth excuses herself for “keeping her own counsel,” because she realizes that William too has “confidences kept,” even from her. Each of the “holy quartet” has their reasons for keeping secrets, some trivial, some life altering— do you think these secrets will ultimately rip them apart? Or are secrets sometimes necessary in order to keep people together?

7. Robert Dudley is an interesting character because, despite how involved he is in court life, he also does his best to keep his head down and his nose clean, unlike his father. Do you think this is wise? What do you make of his relationship with Elizabeth? With William?

8. The title of the book is The Boleyn Deceit. To whom or what do you think the title applies? Who are the deceivers? Who are the deceived?

9. Do you think that a true, balanced friendship can ever really exist between two people who are on vastly different playing fields of power, as William and Dominic are? Why or why not?

10. If given a choice, would you rather be the one in power (William), or serving the one in power? Why?

11. Do you see any parallels between William and Elizabeth’s relationship and that of Anne and George Boleyn?

12. How do the feelings between Dominic, Minuette, William, and Elizabeth shift over the course of the book? Compare their standing at the end of The Boleyn Deceit to their relationship as it was in The Boleyn King. Of the quartet, who do you sympathize with most?

13. During a conversation about political strategy, Will’s uncle opposes him, to which William replies, “Do tell, Lord Rochford: if being king isn’t about me, then whom is it about?” Do you think this is the right attitude to have? Does your opinion of William change over the course of the book?

14. There have been many books written about the Tudors, not to mention the popularity of fi lms and television shows about this time. What do you think is so fascinating about this particular era, and this particular family (for you personally, and in more general cultural terms)?

Connect with Laura Andersen on Facebook

Reader’s Guide: THE DINNER by Herman Koch

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Koch_The DinnerWe have the discussion questions for Herman Koch’s New York Times bestselling novel The Dinner, and believe us when we say that these will whet your literary appetite!

“The best part about The Dinner was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn’t get up from the table.” —Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR

Questions for Discussion
1. How did your opinion of Paul and Serge shift throughout the novel? How might the story line have unfolded if it had been told from a mother’s point of view?

2. In what way do the courses of a meal— from aperitif to digestif— echo the experience of savoring a suspenseful novel? As the waiter described each delicacy in The Dinner, did the food appeal to you, or did you share Paul’s belief that it was pretentious?

3. What do you think of the sympathy Paul and Claire feel for their son? As a parent, how far would you go to defend your child?

4. Do Michel and Rick represent the indifference of their generation, or are teenagers more socially conscious in the Information Age?

5. How much influence do Claire and Babette have over their husbands? How do they define good mothering?

6. The novel opens with Paul’s commentary on how much Serge irritates him. What accounts for their attitude toward each other? Does Paul’s animosity run deeper than typical sibling rivalry?

7. Discuss Paul’s and Serge’s career paths. What does it take to succeed in politics compared with succeeding in the classroom? What skills do the Lohman brothers share?

8. Ultimately, who is to blame for the homeless woman’s death? What does the novel indicate about the responsibilities (or irresponsibility) of the upper class? What separates sympathetic souls from heartless ones?

9. Discuss the portrait of a marriage that Paul paints as he recalls Claire’s illness and confronts the possibility of losing his family. Why is Claire so protective of Paul? What keeps their relationship going?

10. In chapter 30, we see the details of Paul’s approach to history and humanity. As you watched him lose his teaching job, did you perceive him as someone who is ill or simply selfish? Or rational?

11. What does the story of cousins Michel and Rick say about nature versus nurture? How do you think Beau/Faso sees his adoptive family? What have they taught him about getting ahead?

12. How did you react to Claire and Michel’s “solution”?

13. What commentary does the novel offer about the author’s homeland? What aspects of The Dinner would change if it were set in Washington, DC, rather than in the Netherlands?

Guide written by Amy Clements

Have you read The Dinner? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Giveaway Opportunity: WAKE by Anna Hope

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Hope_Wake Have we got a giveaway for you!

WAKE by Anna Hope is a debut novel that unfolds over the course of five days, as three women must deal with the aftershocks of World War I and its impact on the men in their lives.

London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, she looks for solace in her adored brother, who has not been the same since he returned from the front. . . . Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core.

Enter below for your chance to win!

Reader’s Guide: THE TRUTH ABOUT YOU by Susan Lewis

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Lewis_The Truth About YouThe Truth About You is for readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock comes a novel of secrets and suspense that challenges the ties that bind—while reigniting the hope of enduring love.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. From the beginning of the novel, Stacy and Lainey seem to have a closer relationship than that of Lainey with her own sisters. What do you think draws them together?

2. What do you make of the connection between Peter and his dog, Sherman? What does Sherman symbolize? What do you think Sherman’s steadfast loyalty meant to Peter as his dementia worsened?

3. Tierney and Guy’s relationship was risky from the beginning. When do you think Tierney became uncomfortable with what was happening? Do you think she should have told her mother when matters worsened? What can a mother do to prepare her daughter for situations like this or protect her from them?

4. Despite Tom’s absence, Lainey refused to change her plans to go to Italy. Why? Was it a dedication to discovering the truth? A need to find somewhere to belong? Retaliation? Or something else?

5. How did Skye and Tierney’s friendship transform throughout the novel? What were the most influential moments?

6. Before Tom’s relationship with Kirsten and Julia is revealed, Max is very alienated from the Hollingsworth family, especially Lainey. Yet by the end of the book he is closer than ever. What changed?

7. Do you think that Lainey’s discovery about her father was for the best? What was your reaction when she found out? What would you have done if you were in Lainey’s position?

8. Why did Tom want his family to learn about Julia’s condition on their own? Do you think if he had told them earlier they would have responded differently to the situation?

9. As the novel progresses, similarities between Alessandra, Lainey, and Tierney start to become apparent. What are these? Does this remind you of anything in your own family?

10. Divorce is a common theme throughout the novel. What do you think the author might be saying about divorce and its effects on a family, particularly via Stacy, Skye, and Nadia?

11. There are many life-changing secrets throughout this novel, but only some are disclosed. Why do you think some remain hidden? Is secrecy ever better than honesty? If so, how should you decide which secrets are better left untold?

12. Throughout the novel, Lainey relies on words to express her emotions, while Tom instead chooses action. Is one better than the other? Would things have happened differently if Tom had been more plainspoken or Lainey less effusive with her words?

13. There were many themes throughout the novel—secrecy, adultery, family, trust, etc. Which theme resonated most strongly with you?

Discussion Questions: DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Landay_Defending JacobWilliam Landay’s Defending Jacob has captivated book clubs and readers for months now. If you and your book club are looking for a new read- look no more! We have the discussion questions from the exclusive RHRC Reader’s Guide to accompany your next discussion.

“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. How would you have handled this situation if you were Andy? Would you make the same choices he made? Where would you differ the most?

2. Before and during the trial, how would you have handled the situation if you were Laurie? Do you feel she made strong choices as a mother and a wife?

3. Is Andy a good father? Why or why not?

4. Do you believe Jacob is guilty?

5. Is Jacob a product of his upbringing? Do you think he is a violent person because his environment made him violent, or do you think he has had violent inclinations since birth?

6. How do you think people could or should stop adolescent bullying?

7. How much of a factor did Jacob’s age play into your sympathies for him or lack thereof? If Jacob were seventeen, would you view him differently? What about if he were nine?

8. Do you think Neal Logiudice acts ethically in this novel? What about Andy?

9. What is the most damning piece of evidence against Jacob? Is there anything that you felt exonerated him?

10. If Jacob hadn’t been accused, how do you think his life would have turned out? What kind of a man do you think he would grow up to be?

Join the conversation with William Landay on Facebook and Twitter!

Giveaway Opportunity: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread“Reader to reader, knitter to knitter: You’re going to love this book.”—Debbie Macomber

For fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Sarah Addison Allen, The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love.

The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

Enter below for your chance to win!

Reader’s Guide: NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Pessl_Night Film “Mysterious and even a little head-spinning, an amazing act of imagination.”—Dean Baquet, The New York Times Book Review

When you finish reading a book it is never really finished, is it? The characters, places, and stories live on in our heads and we love to discuss what we’ve read with anyone who will listen. Well, we’ve been buzzing about Marisha Pessl’s Night Film for quite some time now and the book has officially been on sale for a month, so if you or your book club has finished reading this novel then now it is time to start the discussion! Random House Reader’s Circle has the discussion questions to continue the conversation. Because, after all, we are never really finished with a book, are we?

Discussion Questions:

1. Professor Wolfgang Beckman accuses Scott of having “no respect for the murk. For the blackly unexplained. The unnail downable.” How does Scott’s perspective on mystery and the “blackly unexplained” change over the course of the novel?

2. Nora asks Scott, “How much evidence do you need before you wonder if it just might be real?” Do you think Scott’s skepticism is a mark of pride, as well as rationality, as Nora suggests? Why does he wish to believe in the curse after his conversation with Inez Gallo? How ready were you to believe in the curse?

3. Scott is relentless in his pursuit of the truth about Cordova. How far would you have gone, in his situation? Is there a point at which you would have stopped pursuing the truth?

4. Cordova’s films were filled with such horror and violence that, in many cases, they were banned from theaters. What is your perspective on violence—its role and its effects—in movies today?

5. Cordova’s philosophy is in many ways antithetical to our modern world, where transparency, over-sharing and social media are the norm. Did you feel drawn to Cordova’s philosophy, or repelled, or both? Why?

6. Discuss how Scott advertently or inadvertently involved his daughter Samantha in his investigation. What did you think of the role she wound up playing, in his discovery?

7. How does your perception of Scott change, from the beginning to the end of the novel?

8. What did you think of the evolution of Nora and Scott’s relationship?

9. Both Scott and Nora reflect on the power of memory and story to alter the way we relate to our experiences. Scott says: “It was never the act itself but our own understanding of it that defeated us, over and over again.” Nora says: “The bad things that happen to you don’t have to mean anything at all.” Do you agree?

10. Beckman says “Every one of us has our box, a dark chamber stowing the thing that lanced our heart.” Consider Nora, Hopper, Ashley, Cordova, and Scott. What do their boxes contain, and in what ways do these secrets motivate them? Imprison them?

11. What do you think helped Hopper come to peace with Ashley’s memory?

12. New York City is just as much a character in the novel as any one person. How does your personal experience of, or relationship with, the city affect your reading?

13. How did the visual elements throughout the book enhance or impact your reading experience?

Join the conversation with Marisha on Facebook and Twitter and stay up to date with her on her website.

Have you already read Night Film? We can’t wait to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with Random House Reader’s Circle on Facebook.

Reading Guide: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT by Erich Maria Remarque

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Remarque_AllQuiet This month we are revisiting one of the greatest war novels of all time. Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece, All Quiet on the Western Front, is reissued in trade paperback. If you or your book club are looking for great literary fiction this fall, then look no further because Random House Reader’s Circle has the exclusive book club materials to get your discussion going.

“The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.”—The New York Times Book Review

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Kantorek the schoolmaster convinced Paul Bäumer and all his schoolmates to enlist, but Paul’s actual wartime experiences prove to be very different than expected. What effect do you think this had on Paul’s faith in the adult world?

2. As their comrade Kemmerich lies dying in the infirmary, Paul and the other soldiers gather around him to offer encouragement and comfort. But they’re also very concerned about who will get Kemmerich’s boots once he dies. What is the significance of this?

3. Paul muses: We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. What makes this so poignant?

4. What did you make of Himmelstoss’s treatment of the soldiers, and vice versa? How did Paul’s opinion of him change over time?

5. Paul imagines that even being back in the time and place of his happiest memories would be like gazing at the photograph of a dead comrade. Those are his features, it is his face, and the days we spend together take on a mournful life in memory; but the man himself it is not. What did you make of his alienation?

6. When Paul is caught in a trench with a soldier from the other side, he wants to help the man’s family after the war. But later, back among his comrades, he says: “It was only because I had to lie there with him so long . . . After all, war is war.” What does he mean by this?

7. What do you think Paul and his friends hoped to gain on their visits to the French women across the canal? Why is he so disappointed when he realizes that his brunette companion is unimpressed by the fact that she’ll never see him again?

8. Paul’s descriptions of the Russian prisoners of war show evidence of compassion. How have Paul’s attitudes towards the enemy changed over the course of the book?

9. What did you think of the ending?

10. Remarque’s second novel, The Road Back, is about veterans in postwar Germany. If Paul had not died, how do you imagine he would have dealt with the postwar world?

11. A hundred years after WWI, what has changed? What has stayed the same?

12. What do you think Remarque was ultimately trying to say about war?

Giveaway Opportunity: DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Landay_Defending Jacob Read the book everyone is talking about!

“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life: his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob.

Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.

It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would you go?

Reading Guide: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK by Piper Kerman

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Kerman_Orange is the New Black_Netflix Tie In “Kerman’s book is a fascinating look down the rabbit hole that is prison… Unforgettable.” –People

The world is buzzing with news about Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Whether you and your book club are picking up the book for the first time or if the Netflix series inspired you to re-read this memoir, Random House Reader’s Circle has you covered! We have exclusive discussion questions for you and your book club to enjoy.

Questions for Discussion

1. Piper, a graduate of Smith College and, arguably, an unlikely candidate for incarceration, gets involved in a drug ring shortly after graduation. This dangerous activity stands in sharp contrast to her previously safe, law-abiding life. What do you think precipitated Piper’s foray into crime? What might have made the drug world so enticing?

2. In Chapter 2, Piper seeks refuge from the underworld in San Francisco. What support does Piper have that allows her to change the direction of her postcollegiate life successfully? How do her circumstances contrast with those of the women she meets in Danbury?

3. Piper is indicted for a crime she committed several years earlier and is sentenced to more than a year in prison. At the time of her incarceration, she is a self-aware woman with a steady job and solid, fulfilling relationships. Once Piper meets other prisoners, she expresses consternation over many of their sentences, which often seem disproportionate to the crimes committed. For example, prisoners receive fifty-four months for Internet fraud and two years for a marijuana charge, but a guard convicted of sexually abusing prisoners receives one month. Women from poor communities often seem to be serving much longer sentences than middle-class prisoners. How do these sentences, including Piper’s, fit in with your idea of prison’s role in society, and the purpose of punishment? What are the biggest crimes in this story, who commits them, and what is their punishment?

4. Many crimes related to the sale of illegal drugs are nonviolent crimes; how do they compare with the sale of legal products that are unhealthy or dangerous, like cigarettes or guns? Nonviolent drug offenses are the reason the majority of the women in the book are in prison; should low-level nonviolent drug offenders be put in prison?

5. Piper’s first taste of prison comes when she surrenders herself to the guards at Danbury. Throughout the memoir, the prisoners endure a number of humiliating tasks at the hands of the guards—arguably, the most vivid being the naked squat/cough ritual after every visitation. Interestingly, though, the incidents that most affect Piper seem to be when one guard refuses to call her by her last name at mail call, sexual harassment from her boss on the electrical job, and a gruff, uncomfortable gynecological exam. Why do you think that is? How do these humiliating encounters shape her view of prison life and of the psychic effects of incarceration on prisoners?

6. The women in the prison have a very definite social system of their own. What purposes do those social systems serve for the prisoners? How do things like food and humor play a role in prisoners’ survival? What special strengths and vulnerabilities do women have when they are in tight-knit single-sex communities such as Danbury? How do you think the needs (emotional and otherwise) of incarcerated men and women differ, and how do their needs differ once they return home?

7. Piper has to learn the ins and outs of prison quickly. Her fellow inmates are nothing if not savvy prisoners. While the coping skills they teach Piper come in very handy behind bars, they don’t translate well into the free world. What kind of education were these women missing in prison? What skills could they have been given that would have helped them establish themselves as productive members of society? How can people convicted of felonies be successfully reintegrated into society?

8. At the end of Chapter 8, Piper discusses the relationship between guards and prisoners. How do you think prison guards can maintain their humanity when the very requirement of their job is to restrict the rights of individuals? Are there any guards or persons of authority in Piper’s story who favorably distinguish themselves by their behavior?

9. Clearly the author’s race, education, and socioeconomic status have an impact on her experience. Should that matter when we consider her story? Do those factors make her story more or less credible? What’s the difference between Danbury FCI, where the author spends most of her time, and the correctional facilities she is transferred to toward the end of the story? Does Piper change in these harsher environments?

10. Should prisons be run by private, for-profit corporations as they are in many states? It is currently legal to make a profit imprisoning the mentally ill, poor, and addicted—but is it ethical?

11. After reading Orange Is the New Black, do you think our prison system is successful? Do you think its dramatic growth over the last thirty years—nearly 400 percent more Americans in prison—is a good thing for the country? Why or why not? What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by telling her story?

Need more ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK in your life? Never fear- stay up to date with Piper on Facebook and Twitter.

Fan of the Netflix series? Catch updates on their Twitter feed!

“In Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Kerman puts us inside, from the first strip search…to the prison-issue unwashed underwear to the cucumbers and raw cauliflower that count as salad…. This book is impossible to put down because she could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter.” –Los Angeles Times

Shoe
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide