Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

What challenges does "The Curious Incident.." present to the ways we usually think and talk about characters in novels? How does it force us to reexamine our normal ideas about love and desire, which are often the driving forces in fiction? Since Mark Haddon has chosen to make us see the world through Christopher's eyes, what does he help us discover about ourselves?

For more information about the author, check out:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri has said, "The question of identity is always a difficult one, but especially for those who are culturally displaced, as immigrants are . . . who grow up in two worlds simultaneously." What do you think Gogol wants most from his life? How is it different from what his family wants for him, and what they wanted when they first came to America to start a family? How have expectations changed between generations in your own family? Do you want something different for your own children from what your parents wanted for you?

For further information about the author, check out:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Rainmaker" by John Grisham

Most of John Grisham's novels are legal thrillers and they have a consistent theme: his heroes are ordinary people who fight the powerful institutions of society -- and win.  

In The Rainmaker the final chapter is called Winners and Losers.  Who, ultimately, are the winners? Who are the losers?

For more information about the author, check out:

For an interview with John Grisham from the New York Times:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"California Girl" by T. Jefferson Parker

T. Jefferson Parker has written many different kinds of characters in his books but they all seem to share one thing -- the loss of someone close to them, either through death or divorce.  What are the various losses experienced by the Becker brothers -- Nick, David & Andy -- in California Girl?

For further information about the author, check out:

For a well-written review with valuable insights about California Girl, check out this link on the January Magazine website:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Calling Me Home" by Julie Kibler

1. When Isabelle first grows close to Robert, is her interest in him genuine, or does it have more to do with disobeying her parents and her society’s constraints? How does their relationship change as it grows?

2. What makes Dorrie and Isabelle’s friendship unique? How did you feel about the way they each reacted to others’ assumptions about them?

For more information about the author, check out:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Creative Shrub Garden
by Andy McIndoe

The Creative Shrub garden helps guide you in selecting what types of shrubs that are available to use in your garden and which ones work best in shade or sun and the zones they work best in. This book provides all the information you will need to create a garden that will grow with you for a long time!
Karen Sharp

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"While I Was Gone" by Sue Miller

How many times during the course of her life does Joey "run away"? Why has she developed this recurring pattern? What, in general, is she fleeing? Do you think, as she occasionally does, that her marriage and her career are in themselves a sort of running away? As the book ends, do you believe that she has stopped running?


For more information about the author (including a Q & A), check out:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford

The US has been called a nation of imigrants. In what ways do the families of Keiko and Henry illustrate different aspects of the American immigrant experience?

For further information about the author, Jamie Ford, check out:

Click on the link below to view images and movie clips from locations in the book as narrated by Jamie Ford:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Touch & Go" by Lisa Gardner

What was your initial impression of each character of the Denbe family at the beginning of the book? How did those impressions evolve or change throughout the novel?

For more information about Lisa Gardner, check out:

For a list of her books:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Serena" by Ron Rash

How would you describe Serena's philosophy of life? What does she value most? What importance does she place on honesty? In your opinion, did she ever truly love Pemberton?  If so, what do her actions in the end say about what she values most in life?

For Readers New to Serena
As Serena came more alive to me as a character, I realized she was an anomaly in American literary fiction. While there have been many novels about women who have wielded great power within a family, how many have been about a woman who is a “captain of industry,” especially in novels set in the past? This aspect of Serena made her even more intriguing to me. How would she assert herself, and prove herself, to the hundred men in her employment? How would the workers, and her husband, react to her strength and ambition? This, too, makes it a novel for our times.
I have never worked harder or longer on a novel than this one. Its scope is much more ambitious and its landscape more vast, but, in the end, the novel’s ultimate theme is the universal and timeless vagaries of the human heart.
—Ron Rash

For more information about the author, check out:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

After the execution of her father, a young teen along with her mother and brother are swooped away from their country to the United States by the CIA. Laila along with her mother and 6 year old brother Bastien have to adapt to a new culture and completely new environment. In their previous life everything is done for them as they were "royalty".  Laila does not know anything about making friends or navigating streets of a new area. She slowly learns and just about when she thought that they would be in the United States for a long time, she discovers her mother's conversations with her uncle, the man that killed her father. Without her truly understanding what was going on, her mother uses her to take revenge on her uncle for his killing of his brother. Laila quickly discovers what actually happened and turns the cards her way, now she is the one in control of what will happen from now on. She is the Invisible Queen!"
A very interesting read. The story helps with understanding what it is like to live in a country with political unrest. It also makes the reader aware of the freedoms every American has but sometimes takes for granted.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger

Much of the book has to do with young Frank's attempt to separate what he thinks he knows from what might (or might not) be the ultimate truth.  Have you ever been in a position of "knowing" something with certainty...and then learning that your judgment was wrong?  How can we guard ourselves false accusations?

For further information about the author and this book, check out:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Parental Guidance on DVD


Old school grandfather Artie (Billy Crystal), who is accustomed to calling the shots, meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) go away for work. But when 21st century problems collide with Artie and Diane's old school methods of tough rules, lots of love and old-fashioned games, it's learning to bend -- and not holding your ground -- that binds a family together.
Rated PG
If you have the winter doldrums...this movie is a terrific cure! Laughter is the best medicine and you will get a lot of laughs from this movie!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is the wife of a prominant Russian government official. She leads a correct but confining upper-middle-class existence. She seems content with her life as a proper companion to her dignified, unaffectionate husband and an adoring mother to her young son, until she meets Count Vronsky, a young officer of the guards. He pursues her and she falls madly in love with him. Her husband refuses to divorce her, so she gives up everything, including her beloved son, to be with Vronsky. After a short time, Vronsky becomes bored and unhappy with their life as social outcasts. He abandons her, returns to the military and is immediately accepted back into society. Anna, a fallen woman, shunned by respectable society, throws herself under a train.
What do you think of the book? What did you think about Anna's decision to leave her son behind? What did you think about the way Anna's suicide was treated in the book?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Home Front" by Kristin Hannah

Early in Jolene's homecoming, Mila says: "We all knew how hard it would be have you gone, but no one told us how hard it would be when you came back." What do you think about this comment?  Do we romanticize homecomings and thereby somehow set ourselves up for diappointment?  What could her family have done to make Jolene's return an easier transition?

For further informaiton about the author, check out:

Photographer Lalage Snow's photo series "We Are the Not Dead":

A series of portraits of British soldiers over a period of eight months, before, during and after their operational deployment in Afghanistan. The portraits are captioned with the thoughts and feelings of each individual. They speak of fear, being injured, losing a brother soldier, missing home, excitement, coming home, and what life is like on the frontline

As the body count of British servicemen killed or wounded rose and the political ramifications of the British army’s presence in Afghanistan became increasingly convoluted, more and more soldiers felt like they didn’t have a voice, or at least, weren’t being listened to. ‘We Are The Not Dead’ is an attempt at giving the brave young men and women the chance to speak.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunites to help veterans:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick

In " A Reliable Wife", Catherine imageines herself as an actress playing a series of roles, the one of Ralph's wife being the starring role of a lifetime. Where in the novel might you see a glimpse of the real Catherine Land?  Do you feel like you ever get to know this woman, or is she always hidden behind a facade?

For more information about the author, check out: