Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Maid - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all enjoying the book for this month, and thanks to those who have let me know whether or not they'll be making it to the meeting on Thursday 28th November.

Here are some questions for you to think about over the next week while you're finishing off the book:

- What do you think of Cutter’s interpretation of Jehanne d’Arc? Is it different from others you have read or seen?

- How effective was the combined narrative of Jehanne’s voice, Jehanne retelling her story to Massieu, and the third person narrative of the story? How did reading Jehanne’s accounts alter your perspective of her story?

- Jehanne has a number of friendships within the novel. Who betrays her? Who remains a real friend to the end? What effect do these friendships have on Jehanne? Do you feel that her journey is ultimately a solitary one?

- Why are the men's clothing and the suit of armor so important to Jehanne? How does she transform according to what she has on? How does clothing define us?

- Why is it so important that Jehanne remain a virgin? Was she? Does it matter?

See you all on Thursday 28th November!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

This turned out to be another Marmite book with some people really loving it, while others found it to be really slow and boring. No-one actively hated the book which is good!

Those that enjoyed the book found it to be very unlifting and positive as an experience, whereas those who didn't enjoy it found it the complete opposite. They found it to be very ploddy and depressing. Some people felt that he might have lost his mind during certain parts of the book, he certainly seemed to be having difficulty with the world around him, and even staying upright at certain points.

Almost everyone was annoyed with his shoe choice, and his refusal to buy new ones. We felt that this was like the hairshirt that a traditional pilgrim may have worn, or maybe he felt that he had set out with them so he was going to finish with them? Maybe it gave the oddness of the walk a certain sense of normalcy to him to be wearing the same shoes and clothes?

We enjoyed watching the journey that Harolds wife went on during Harolds pilgrimage. She certainly changed the way she lived and thought about things drastically, maybe more so than Harold does. We felt that her friendship with Rex gave her an insight into Harolds friendship with Queenie, it made her step outside the comfort of her own home and think about things other than her son.

Overall we felt that there had been a general lack of communication with the family, both between Harold and his wife, and also between them and their son. This might have been why things went so spectacularly wrong with all the relationships prior to the pilgrimage. We felt that up until this point Harold was a bit of a stranger in his own life and his walk had nothing really to do with the letter, but more to do with him making a decision to change his life and do something positive to achieve something he felt was worthwhile. Although this walk appears to be all about delivering the letter and wanting Queenie to survive it could also be seen that the letter from Queenie was merely the catalyst to make Harold face up to the way he had lived his life and forced him to make that change. We also wondered whether Queenie wrote to anyone else to say goodbye, and if she did what they did about the letter?

A few members of the book club really felt they might like one day to just walk out of their front door and just walk. This seemed to be a surprisingly popular thing to want to do amongst the group, and to be fair i think at some point pretty much everyone gets the urge just to walk away from the stress of everyday life and just to rely upon yourself, just for a little while at least.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.

Free Magazines from Welsh Libraries


Just thought this would brighten your Friday afternoon. Libraries in Wales have recently bought a large amount of online magazines that are free to download. Go to the following URL and see what you want to read today from craft magazines to big names like Martha Stewart Living and Elle.

If you need any help downloading things (it's incredibly easy so you should be fine) just give me a shout!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Questions


I hope everyone is enjoying the book this month. Don't forget that we're meeting on 31st October this month. Here are some questions for you to think about while you're reading this months book:

- Talk about the obvious—why Harold Fry never returns from the mailbox. Is he experiencing a mid-life crisis, or spiritual crisis...or what? Has anything like that ever happened to you—a snap decision that turned out to be not just of-the-moment, but momentous as well?

- Why is Harold's journey called a "pilgrimage" in the title?

- What is Rachel Joyce satirizing as crowds begin to gather and Harold's journey becomes a cause celebre—with its t-shirts, Tweets, and Facebook posts? How do the people who join Harold in his trek see his journey—what are they looking for, or what do they expect from Harold? Why do the crowds eventually leave him behind?

I hope everyone is enjoying this months book

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Bits and bobs


I've been doing some research into the questions to look at in our next book club meeting and have come across the following website containing interviews with the author etc. I thought they would be interesting to read so i'm emailing them out to you.
There is a podcast on this page but it can't be accessed within work.

I do hope you're all enjoying this book.

American Gods

Due to previous engagements this was not a very well attended book club meeting. Of the people attending no-one had actually finished the book, although one person was only a few pages away from the end. Everyone said that they wanted to finish the book because they wanted to discover the answers to some of the questions they had about the book. The reason why most of the book club members  did not finish the book may be because it is very much out of most of their comfort zone with regards genre, it was also a very long novel.

We felt it was interesting how the various gods in the book are made to be humans, we wondered whether Shadow is also a god but is unaware of this. We were hoping this would be explained later on in the book, as much as anything is really explained in the book!

The book appeared very confusing to us, we weren't sure about the amount of time everything took, we also weren't sure of some of the motivations of the characters. For example, why did Shadow have an obsession with Laura? We also found that the sheer number of different characters and their godly alter-egos was confusing, trying to keep a track of who was who was tricky. There were also a lot of random bits within the book where we left the main story and watched some other characters, often in a different time and place to the main story. Some book club members found this to be distracting although others felt that it added an extra dimension to the story.

We went on to discuss the difference between a belief and a religion, when does one become the other, or are they very different things. We also spoke about the reasons behind the book, possible morality issues such as modern technology making us as humans become more isolated from our surroundings. We seem to be creating our own online communities rather than looking to those people who live in the same street or town as ourselves. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Only one person had ever read a Neil Gaiman book before, and they mentioned that this book is very different to the others they have read.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

American Gods - Questions


Firstly if you aren't going to make this weeks meeting please let me know, it's useful to be able to plan for the baking.

Secondly, i hope you've all been enjoying the book this month, i know i have been. Here are some questions to consider prior to the meeting:

- What is the cultural significance of the war between the gods of old and the "new gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon"? In what ways have Americans transferred their devotion from spiritual to material and technological gods? What are the consequences of such a shift?

- Late in the novel, the narrator says that "Religions are, by definition, metaphors.... Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world." Would you agree with this assertion? What are the gods in American Gods metaphors for? What is the difference between a world view based on worship, sacrifice, and belief in the divine and a world view based on the accumulation of material wealth and comfort?

- What does the novel imply about the reality of life in small-town America? What darker truth lies behind the pleasant idyll of Lakewood, Wisconsin?

- What makes Shadow such a compelling protagonist? What are his most appealing qualities? At what crucial points in the novel does he demonstrate courage, compassion, intelligence, a willingness to sacrifice himself? What does his relationship with Laura reveal about him? What is the significance of his obsession with coin tricks?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Long Earth

Most of the members of the book club had finished the book.

This book was based on a short story written by Terry Pratchett prior to writing The Colour of Magic which was then picked up again and made into this book and The Long War. We felt that this wasn't a particularly good example of what either of the individual writers could produce, in fact it was a bit of a let down.

We felt that although it was a large book there wasn't actually much of a story within the pages, it could easily have stayed as a short story, or maybe a series of short stories. It felt as though the writers were a little bit lost while writing the book, they stuffed in new elements throughout with little or no explanation. It almost felt that this was their original brainstorming session rather than a finished book. Each of the little stories in the book on their own were interesting but they weren't expanded enough to fully capture us as readers. Although having said that we did enjoy the way that some of the creatures found on the other earths were used to explain fairy tale characters, but again we wanted more information.

We could notice the two different writers voices, even though only a couple of members of the book club had previously read books by Terry Pratchett. There were often jarring elements where Terry Practchett came through with a ridiculous name, or piece of information. These were juxtaposed with the much more dry, hard science elements from Stephen Baxter.

The main issue we all had with the book is the lack of details in the different worlds, and a bit more explanation as to why things were the way they were on the different earths. Things just seemed to be seen and stated with little reason as to why and how they all linked. We understood that we were following a scientific experiment and that the scientists involved didn't have the answers but maybe some discussion would have helped us to understand the different earths a little better. The fact that these were all earths of exactly the same age, just one step sideways with regard to the things that had happened to them caused us a bit of confusion because normally in books of this nature they involve time slips rather than earth slips.

Overall we gave this book 3 out of 10. We found it to be ultimately disappointing.

The Long Earth - Questions

Just a quick email to make sure you're all enjoying this months book, here are some ideas and questions to think about while you're reading:
- why do you think people have to make or at least finish the stepping devices themselves? Do you think this links with the idea of natural steppers at all?
- when the great danger was revealed how did you feel about it, did you understand it or feel it was a bit of a let down?
- Did you find that Pratchett and Baxter worked as a writing team or could you see different writing styles as you were reading? Have you read anything by either writer before, and if so could you notice their style in this book?
- what would you do if faced with infinite pristine earths, would you step and if so, how far and with what purpose?
I hope you're all enjoying your books, and i'll see you on Thursday 29th August.

The Long Earth - videos and questions

I hope everyone is enjoying this months book. I found this online last week and thought i would share them with you.

The Bell Jar

We felt that this wasn't a book to be read and enjoyed with a strong story line, it was simply a book trying to make the reader understand what it is like to live through mental illness. This makes it uncomfortable to read at times especially given the author actually went through similar things to the protagonist in her own real life. For example, she was treated at one time using electro-shock treatment a particularly nasty experience. This gave the story a large dose of realism which probably added to the readers ability to empathise with the character. We then went on to discuss the use of electric shocks as a way of treating mental illness, and although we could see the logic to it, we couldn't understand how it could actually be used on fragile human beings. We talked about how we're still very much only just learning how the brain actually works, and what happens when it breaks a little.
We also discussed who the characters in the book might have been given that Sylvia Plath was obviously the lead character. Maybe her then husband Ted Hughes might have been one of the characters, possibly the professor?
With regards the lack of storyline, we felt that it was very much a stream of consciousness rather a story with a plan. This meant there was often not much explanation, it felt more like a person writing a diary who doesn't need to explain anything because it's something only the writer will ever read. The book didn't seem to have a beginning middle and end as most books tend to have, it was as if the reader had just picked up one diary from a series of diaries and read that with not much context. The ending showed this particularly well.
The book seemed to be easy to read with regard to the writing style, it flowed easily despite the uncomfortable subject matter. However, it wasn't a book that many of the members of the book club felt compelled to pick up, probably because of the lack of a strong story line. Once it was picked up though it was enjoyed.
An interesting point made by one member of the book club was the symbol of the bell jar itself seeming to represent the fact that the person within cannot hear those outside and vice versa, meaning that they cannot understand each other. It could also mean that the person inside the bell jar feels themselves to be some kind of science experiment with other people watching her but not interacting with her.
We found the descriptions of depression and mental illness to be very interesting, we felt that the person with mental illness may not even realise that this is waht they're suffering from. They may simply believe that they are having difficulty sleeping or concentrating when really they are severly depressed.

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

Here are some questions for you to think about for this months book:

- Are Esther's attitudes toward men, sex, and marriage peculiar to herself? What role do her attitudes play in her breakdown? What are we told about her society's expectations regarding men and women, sexuality, and relationships? Have those expectations changed since that time?

- What terms does Esther use to describe herself? How does she compare or contrast herself with Doreen and others in New York City, or with Joan and other patients in the hospital?

- What instances and images of distortion occur in the novel? What are their contexts and significance? Does Esther achieve a clear, undistorted view of herself?

- With what specific setting, event, and person is Esther's first thought of suicide associated? Why? In what circumstances do subsequent thoughts and plans concerning suicide occur?


This months notes were written up by a kind volunteer and are as follows:

- easy book to read but everyone felt there was something lacking
- the main character, Mary made big transitions in her life but ultimately ended up where she started. Although this did seem to be not so much from choice but making the best of a bad situation after she was found out by the innkeeper. Had this not happened, it may have been a different story
- Mary was driven by a want for the finer things in life
- Mary didn't want to be subservient or answer to anyone.  She was self-reliant and wanted control. She even tried to control the manner in which she died even though she had no choice
- the last chapter was poor and felt it was more about wrapping the book up swiftly
- disappointing that there was no reflection or remorse from Mary in the last chapters
- the book lacked depth and there was little evidence of emotions therefore it was difficult to engage with the main character
- despite Mary being a victim of a number of unfortunate events, it was difficult to feel sorry for her
- Doll was more likeable character
- Daffy came over as a bit of a hopeless dreamer and romantic.  It was strange he had access to so many books as they were expensive during this era
- Mary came under influence of a number of maternal influences, her own mother, Doll, the matron, Mrs Jones.  Mary had a better relationship with Doll than her own mother Mary had a difficult relationship with her mother and seemed determined that would not be like her.  Mary seemed to be a constant reminder of her father and she resented the promise made to Mary's father of ensuring Mary had an education
- although Mary was fortunate to have an education, it gave her ideas above her station and made it difficult for her to fit in
- the book showed how powerless women were during this time.  All the women in the story had had some misfortune or been let down by men.  The men in story had all the control
- overall the book should have been more interesting. It was a good story but this did not come through enough.  Not enough invested in the characters

Average score - 5.5

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wicked -

Only one person in the group had finished this book, everyone else was finding it a little hard going. We felt that it really needed to be read with your full attention so it wasn't really a book to read prior to going to sleep.

We felt there was a lack of a central plot, it seemed to consist of lots of fragmented stories which we found difficult to bring together. We also felt that there wasn't much done with regard to character building as well, which meant that between the two there wasn't enough plot or character building to entertain us. Maybe the author was rely on the fact that his readers would have already watched the movie and read all the books by Frank L Baum. None of us had read the books, and one member hadn't watched the movie so this may have had a detrimental effect on how much we all enjoyed this book.

We discussed various topics based around the themes we could find in the book. For example, whether good intentions with a bad ending are the same as bad intentions with a bad ending. We thought that it depends a great deal on whether you're the person doing the action or the person on the receiving end as to how you might feel about this question. We also thought that it was the intention behind the action rather than the action itself that was most important with regards the end result.

In the end we wondered whether Elphaba was a self-fulfilling prophecy, she tried to do what she felt were good things to improve the lives of the Animals but in the end her skin held her back. She looked like a wicked witch so people treated her as such. Was she really wicked and evil or was she just trying to get retribution for her sisters untimely death?

One positive element we took from the book was the fact that we felt Elphaba was a very strong female character of which there is sometimes a lack in literature.

Overall we gave this book 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wicked - Questions


Here are some things to think about while you read Wicked over this lovely long back holiday weekend! Interestingly many of the questions compare the Gregory Maguire book with the original story, has anyone read the original?

- Gregory Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba (pronounced EL-fa-ba) from the initials of the author of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum-L-F-B-Elphaba. Wicked derives some of its power from the popularity of its source material. Does meeting up with familiar characters and famous fictional situations require more patience and effort on the part of the reader, or less?

- [Galinda] reasoned that because she was beautiful she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet". Discuss the transformation of Galinda, shallow Shiz student, to Glinda the Good Witch. How does she change — and by how much? What is her eventual "significance," both in Oz and in the story?

- Wicked is an epic story, built along the lines of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, in which the seeds of Elphaba's destiny are all sown early in the novel. How much of Elphaba's career is predestined, and how much choice does she have? Do you think that she was no more than a puppet of the Wizard or Madame Morrible, as she fears?

- Was Elphaba's story essentially a tragedy or a triumph? Did she fail at every major endeavor, and thus fail at life; or because she refused to give up or change to suit the opinions of others, was her life a success? Is there a possibility that Dorothy's "baptismal splash" redeemed Elphaba on her deathbed, or was this the final indignity in a life of miserable mistakes?

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

A Night To Remember

Everyone in the book group finished this book, mostly because it's a very small book.

We all felt that it gave a much more realistic feel for what happened on that night, more so than the more recent Hollywood movie. Maybe because it was very realistic we also felt that it was a little dry in parts (no pun intended) with long lists of names along with a small amount of background information. It could be that because this book was written very soon after the accident that people knew the famous names mentioned in this book that meant nothing to us now. This we felt was interesting because at the time these people were like the movie stars of today, with their every move watched by millions. The lack of personality to these people in the book made us feel somewhat detached from them even though at the same time we were reading about some of the tragic demise. We thought that the lists of extremely rish people were meant to give us an impression of just how amazingly luxurious this boat was, but we felt that we wanted to know some more about those on the lower decks.

We discussed the differences between the super rich on board the Titanic compared to the rich of today and felt that those on board the Titanic were really in a completely different league. They had private trains meet them at the dockside, and not only that they seemed to think that they were different to those with less money. These days we think that people don't tend to like to show off their wealth to such an extent, it seems slightly vulgar these days when there are people with nothing. In those days the super rich seemed to be separated much more from those with nothing, we felt that maybe the days of the Titanic were probably the death throes of this kind of lifestyle. The rich seemed to think they could build anything and do anything as long as they threw enough money at it, but they were being proven wrong with things like the Titanic and other similar disasters. We wondered whether having such rigid social hierarchy was a good a or a bad thing. We thought that it maybe created a feeling of responsibility to others, and a kind of structure in which you knew what was expected of you.

It was obvious in the book that the poor were overlooked both for being rescued, and even being mentioned at all in the book. There were very few names of those on the lower decks within the pages of this book compared to the actual amount of them on the ship and also compared to the amount of rich names being thrown about.

Somehow, although we all knew the ending we all wanted it to be different in the book, we weren't sure why this was. We all felt that there were some sadly poignant moments with small babies and children dying in the water, juxtaposed against the humour of the baker who survived by seeming to drink his own body weight in alcohol prior to stepping off the ship.

We also discussed the old saying "women and children first" we wondered where this came from and when it was first used, and also is it still in use today. We also wondered whether it is used all over the world or whether it was something that only really happened during the pre-titanic era amongst the ultra-politeness of the time. It would appear, given the amount of second class men who died, that they really did stick to this. Although the first class men appeared to allow women and children first to a certain extent and then their inherant feeling of intitlement may have taken over as a higher percentage of them survived than the female steerage passengers. We all wondered how we would react, we all felt that we would put our chilren into the life boats first but after that we wouldn't really know what to do. When the fight or flight reaction takes over you have no control over yourself and we felt that people should not be called cowards just because of a hormonal reaction.

Looking back on the tragedy it's easy to see where all the errors were for example, why did they turn off all the radios at night, why did they use such inferior bolts, how did they not know what flares meant etc. To be honest given the amount of errors and the complete lack of life-saving equipment on board it is actually surprising that they saved as many people as they did. We felt that those at sea did learn from these mistakes and new measures were put in place to ensure that these errors were unlikely to happen again. We felt that the biggest error may have been human arrogance that nothing bad could happen to such an amazing ship.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.

Titanic Background Information

Hello everyone,

I hope you've all been enjoying this months book, i thought i would send out some information about the Titanic since there is so much around at the moment.

Here is the BBC website commemorating the Titanic:

Across the pond there are commemorations too:

I hope this all makes it a little more real, more so than the movie.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Almost everyone in the book club finished the book this month, and for those that hadn't it wasn't for want of enjoying the book it was just a time consideration. One member of the book club was on their second read of this book and still enjoyed it, they had also read some of the later books as well. Everyone felt that the book was very enjoyable and easy to read with just the odd moment when we felt that the language being used was just a little to modern.

We discussed how the notion of childhood and family has changed a great deal over the centuries, with children now being treated a great deal more with kid-gloves than in the time of the Boleyns. Children then were used far more as items to gain wealth and status, more so than today. Daughters seemed to be sold into marriages that would benefit their family, in fact this was the only thing they had to do other than produce male offspring. It all felt rather harsh compared to today, however, we thought we still hope our children make good marriages today but love comes into it a little more. We were also quite shocked at the young age that Mary was given to her first husband and also to the King, she was a great deal younger than we felt comfortable with in todays society.

The historical accuracy of the book was also discussed as it appears at first glance to be very good, however, with a little extra knowledge we discovered that a lot of literary licence has been taken with various aspects. This could be partly due to the lack of accurate historical records, and partly to make the story flow a little more easily, either way you do get a lot of historical accuracy but take some elements with a pinch of salt. We felt that the book was a very romaticised and slightly lengthy version of events, although the end of the book seemed to be rushed through in comparison.

The discussions of King Henry centred around his being very spoilt and childish, this could come from him being a second child, or just because he surrounded himself with sycophants. He seemed to remove those who didn't bow to his demands pretty quickly, even changing the laws and religions of the time so he could get his way. Once he had removed the power of the Pope and the Cardinal we felt that felt that he was now god within England and he could do whatever he wanted and still be able to justify it to himself and his people. He also seemed to very much enjoy the thrill of the chase both with women and with his hunting addiction. We felt that towards the end of the book he was feeling his age and it scared him, especially as he was still unable to conceive a son. This need for a son seemed to completely take over his world.

We discussed the two queens, and felt that Katharine was far more royal and regal with regard her behaviour compared to Anne. Anne we felt was a bit of a power-hungry chav only wanting the King as something to acquire and once she had him then she realised what she had achieved was possibly not in her best interests. Interestingly she really did sign her own death warrant by making Henry feel he could do whatever he wanted with regards "annulling" his various marriages.

Given all this we might chose to read another book in this series but wouldn't read them in close succession. Overall we gave this book 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Other Boleyn Girl - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all enjoying the book. Here are some questions for you to have a look at before Thursday.

- Why does Philippa Gregory choose Mary to narrate the story? Keeping in mind the relationship between the observer and those observed, is Mary a good, trustworthy, narrator? As Mary ages, how is her loss of innocence reflected in her telling of the story?

- How do you feel about the idea that a woman had to be married before she could bed the king? What do you think about the king changing the laws to suit his needs? When Anne states that "Nothing will ever be the same for any woman in this country again," examine why she could believe she would be exempt from the same treatment. In other words, why didn't she realize that "when she overthrew a queen that thereafter all queens would be unsteady"? Do you think the family realized this but persevered anyway?

- In King Henry's court, homosexuality was a crime. Why do you think George essentially flaunted his preference? What do you make of the intimate kiss between George and Anne that Mary witnessed? What is the impetus behind George and Anne's relationship? Discuss whether or not you believe that George slept with Anne so that she might have a son, and why.

- After Anne is arrested, Mary pleads for her by saying, "We did nothing more than that was ordered. We only ever did as we were commanded. Is she to die for being an obedient daughter?". What is your reaction to these arguments? Did Henry have no choice but to sentence her to death?

Questions from LitLovers

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter

The book group didn't seem to enjoy this book very much, this isn't to say it was a bad book, it just wasn't as enjoyable as we'd anticipated. We felt that some elements of the book were confusing, such as the title. It sounded very cryptic and we were waiting to find out the meaning behind it only to discover that it just related to how kids are taught to spell Mississippi, not that cryptic at all really.

We weren't all that happy with the book being called a thriller as we didn't really feel it fitted into this genre at all, there was nothing thrilling about it. To be honest we weren't even sure if it fitted into a mystery either, it just really told a story about two men who had fallen out for whatever reason. We felt that the author was trying to write a very literary thriller but somehow managed to fail on both counts.

Most of the book club felt that this book was very hard to get through with only a minority saying that they felt it was beautifully written and enjoyable. Most of the book group felt that it was difficult to keep a handle on who was who within the book as none of them seemed to really stand out as distinct personalities. It was felt that a lot of the things that happened in the book were rather random with little or no explanation as to why people reacted or acted in certain ways.Having read about some of the characters through the book we felt that the way that Silas acted was not within his character, it seemed very odd when everything was revealed at the end.

Overall we gave this book 4 out of 10.

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter - Questions

Hello everyone!

Here are some questions for you to think about for Thursday 28th February:

- Describe the boys Larry and Silas were, and the men they became. What drew Larry and Silas together as children? What separated them? How did you feel about both characters?

- After Silas, Larry considered Wallace Stringfellow to be his friend. What was the bond between Larry and Wallace? What attracted one to the other? Were they really friends? What is a friend?

- Larry felt he was to blame for Wallace's tragic choices. Do you think he was responsible at all? What about Silas? How much responsibility do we carry for others? For family? Friends? Strangers? How much responsibility does the community bear for Wallace's actions?

- How does Larry react when Silas tells him the truth about their childhood? Can true friends overcome betrayal? How? Do you think they will be part of each other's lives going forward?

I hope you're all enjoying the book, and looking forward to the meeting next week.

Questions from GoodReads

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

On the whole most of the book group really enjoyed this book, we wouldn't say that it was high literary fiction but it was very enjoyable and gave you something to think about. Interestingly this was the second read for one person who very much enjoyed it the first time but found it a little boring on the second read.

We were all amazed there wasn't much more in the book about the War, it all seemed to be very glossed over, but maybe this was because we were meant to be focusing on the characters involved rather than the historical background. It may also have been because of the age of the protaganists, they were both quite young and they were both focused on experiencing their first taste of love.

Thr group felt that this book was very interesting as many didn't realise how the Japanese population in America were treated during the Second World War. It's not something that is often discussed either in books or during our education about this time period. We compared their treatment to the treatment of Jews, and other nationalities in the European countries during this time. We then went on to discuss how we felt about our own nationalities as we all live in Wales but not all of us are Welsh either by birth or stepping back further into our pasts. We also spoke about how this is becoming more confusing for people as they are now second or even third generation living within the UK or even other countries, who do they feel their loyalties lie with?

 Some of the group found that the story took a while to get going which didn't help their experience. But we all felt that the jumps between the past and the present day (for the novel) were done well without too much confusion. Some of thr group didn't enjoy the short chapters especially as some of them were within the same time with little difference in what was happening, we felt that this would have felt better with just a break within the chapter rather than a completely new chapter.

We discussed why we felt that the two yound people were so deeply in love despite being so young. We wondered whether it was the War going on around them that heightened their feelings, or maybe it was the fact that it was slightly forbidden on the part of the Chinese family. We also wondered whether that was why Henry still held such a strong torch for Keiko even during the present day. It did at times feel as though Henry was a bit obssessed with Keiko to the point of the reader becoming slightly uncomfortable.

The one thing that confused us all was that we felt that the people within the story always acted much older than they really are. It felt as though Henry was an old gentleman in the more recent sections of the book when he really wasn't that old at all.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you've all enjoyed this months book and are looking forward to the meeting and meal on Thursday 31st January. Here are some questions for you to think about while finishing off the book:

- If you were Henry, would you be able to forgive your father? Does Henry's father deserve forgiveness?

- From the beginning of the novel, Henry wears the "I am Chinese" button given to him by his father. What is the significance of this button and its message, and how has Henry's understanding of that message changed by the end of the novel?

- What sacrifices do the characters in the novel make in pursuit of their dreams for themselves and for others? Do you think any characters sacrifice too much, or for the wrong reasons? Consider the sacrifices Mr. Okabe makes, for example, and those of Mr. Lee. Both fathers are acting for the sake of their children, yet the results are quite different. Why?

- Was the US government right or wrong to "relocate" Japanese-Americans and other citizens and residents who had emigrated from countries the US was fighting in WWII? Was some kind of action necessary following Pearl Harbor? Could the government have done more to safeguard civil rights while protecting national security?

- Should the men and women of Japanese ancestry rounded up by the US during the war have protested more actively against the loss of their property and liberty? Remember that most were eager to demonstrate their loyalty to the US. What would you have done in their place? What’s to prevent something like this from ever happening again?

See you all next week!

Questions from LitLovers