Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party—Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break—December 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
Still Life by Louise Penny

Ratings:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 3.0 and 4.0. The average of the ratings was 3.42.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 2.0 and 4.0.  The average of the ratings was 3.50.

Facilitator stated selection of this cozy mystery was based on club input regarding the desire to have shorter selections and/or easy reads during the holidays. Facilitator also stated that one goal is to expose members to a variety of genres. Members were asked whether or not they appreciated this selection as part of accommodating these requests.  Members overwhelming appreciated having an easier read and enjoy being exposed to new authors and genres.

Review:

Books and Bagels:  Many members stated they are not mystery readers and with that in mind, they found this cozy mystery novel entertaining. Members thought the book was good, but not outstanding. The writing and structure seemed similar to an Agatha Christie novel.  Many members enjoyed the characters Louise Penny created and most members plan on reading another Louise Penny book in the Inspector Gamache series.

Morning Book Break: Most members enjoyed the novel and thought Louise Penny skillfully revealed her clues. They enjoyed visiting the countryside of Three Pines. They found the read soothing and a great escape from the news of the day.  Members liked that Penny showed tolerance for a variety of people without being preachy. Many members will probably read another book in the series.

A few members disliked the novel. They disliked that Louise Penny had at least twenty-six characters in the novel and some members found this confusing and frustrating.  Members also disliked the ending and found it contrived and rushed.  Members also felt they learned more about archery then they ever wanted to know.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Discussion about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his strengths and weaknesses
  • Discussion about other main characters and their relationships: Clara & Peter, Olivier & Gabri, Reine-Marie, Ruth, Myrna, Jane, Ben, Suzanne & Matthew Croft, Philippe,

Yolande, Andre and Bernard Malenfant.  Also, discussed choices the characters made throughout the novel and if any characters evolved over the course of the novel.

  • Members were asked which character they would most like to have cafe au lait with at the Bistro. Most members would like to have coffee with Olivier and Gabri, as they believe they are the most interesting conversationalists. Members would like to have discussions about food to their heart’s content.

Some members elected to have coffee with Inspector Gamache to discuss philosophy and find out how he solves crimes. Two members desired to have coffee with Reine-Marie to hear the private stories Inspector Gamache has told her. Several members would seek out Myrna to get some sage advice.  Several members coveted time with Jane to hear stories of the children she taught and insights into all the villagers—they found her powers of observation to be profound. They would also like to discuss her art.  Some members wanted to dialogue with Ruth about her poetry. One member needed to talk with Ben and find out what happened in his life that led him down such a dark path.

  • Discussed Agent Yvette Nichol’s role in the novel. What is her purpose: as an investigator and/or part of the narrative? Did you find this subplot intrusive or helpful?
  • The role of Jane’s art in the novel and the Queen of Hearts game played by Jane and her niece Yolande.
  • The role of psychology and poetry within the novel.
  • How would you classify Still Life? Is Still Life a typical “cozy” mystery?
  • Louise Penny has a “detective reveal all” scene when Gamache gathers everyone to look at the painting, but all is not revealed. The group discussed Penny’s handling of the denouement.
  • We discussed whether or not we felt Louise Penny played fair with the reader. When the murderer was discovered, were you able to connect the dots with the clues presented throughout the novel or did the reveal come completely out of the blue?  Were you able to figure out who was the murderer?

Resources:

http://www.louisepenny.com/ (includes an excellent pronunciation guide for all of Louise Penny’s novels)

 

Read-a-Likes:

Still Life

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Book Club, RA Programs, Read-a-Likes, reader's advisory

After Dinner Mints

Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

This month’s fiction book is Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Mr. Krueger is an American author and crime writer. He is also the author of the Cork O’Connor series of thirteen books. All of his novels are set in Minnesota. William knew that he wanted to be a writer back in the third grade. He wakes up every morning at 5:30 and goes to a nearby cafe’. At the cafe’, he drinks coffee in “his” booth while writing long-hand in wire bound notebooks.

Our story takes place in 1961 in the small town of New Bremen, Minnesota. Our narrator, thirteen year old Frank Drum tells us the story of how in one summer the town experiences an accidental death, a natural death, a suicide, and a murder. This one summer is engraved in Frank’s mind because four deaths in one summer is unheard of for this small town. The young girl that was murdered is Frank’s eighteen year old sister, Ariel, who was heading to college in the fall.

We follow the murder investigation through Frank’s eyes. Frank also has a younger brother, eleven year old, Jake, who has stuttered his whole life. These two young boys are brothers and very best friends.

They adore their sister and want someone brought to justice for her death.

It is also a story about grief. How grief can change an entire family and even an entire town for that matter! For many families, the death of a child tears them apart forever. Why do bad things happen to good people? How could this happen and who is to blame?

We meet many of the townspeople and the author gives us a few “red herrings” as we discover a murderer. William Kent Krueger is a great writer! Ordinary Grace is his first stand-alone novel.

I would also like to thank the Just Desserts book club for a great discussion and 100% attendance by the whole group! I am so thankful for each and every one of you! See you in January for Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things!

Ordinary Grace