Check It Out Category: Book Discussion Questions

Book Discussion Questions: The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 book coverTitle: The Woman in Cabin Ten
Author: Ruth Ware
Page Count: 340 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Tone: Menacing, Uncertain, Tense

Summary: An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, makes it difficult to know what to believe.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The book starts with a prologue, “In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depth of the North Sea. Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water; her pale skin was wrinkled; her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.” How did this set the tone of the book for you?

    1. 2. The story dives right in. Chapter 1, as we are introduced to the books’ protagonist, Lo Blacklock; we are immediately thrust into a home invasion. It was a short chapter but a lot happens. How did this opening feel to you?

3. Did you have any initial opinions of Lo?

4. We go from Lo’s apartment being broken into, to the scene in Jude’s flat where Lo accidentally knocks out Jude’s tooth. Let’s talk about this and their relationship?

5. What were your initial impressions of Jude?

6. Lo goes on the cruise. Do you think she should have gone? What did you think of the ship?

7. Lo wakes up at 3am. “Something had woken me up. Something that left me jumpy and strung out as a meth addict. Why did I keep thinking of a scream?” She picked up her book and then heard something else, “something that barely registered above the sound of the engine and the slap of the waves, a sound so soft that the scrap of a paper against paper almost drowned it out. It was the noise of the veranda door in the next cabin sliding gently open.” She believed that she heard the splash made by a body hitting water. What did you think?

8. What did you think about Lo’s interaction with the ships security Johann Nilsson?

9. We start to see emails/texts from Jude wondering if anyone has heard from Lo. How did this affect the story for you?

10. The morning after “the murder,” Lo checks out the entire staff of the ship looking for the woman she saw in Cabin 10. She told the staff that she heard a scream and then felt the mention of the scream had been a mistake; she felt “the staff had closed ranks.” What do you think of that? Did you think the staff was hiding something?

11. No staff seemed to be missing, no passengers were missing, and Lo’s career could be on the line.  Why do you think she pursued her line of inquiry? Would you?

12. As the story continues, it is clear that Nillsen seemed to doubt Lo’s suspicions of foul play.  Thoughts?

13. Lo approached Lord Richard Bullmer about her belief of a possible murder. Did you think this was a good idea? Let’s talk about their interaction.

14. Ben Howard, Lo’s ex-boyfriend, becomes an important character in the book. What did you think about him?

15. In the middle of the book, the prologue comes into play. Lo goes to the spa and gets a mud wrap, as she goes into the shower, she sees written across the steam mirror the words “stop digging” and on the very next page, we read that Lo’s body was found by a Danish Fisherman. Where did the story go for you at this point?

16. Lo asked Karla (her cabin attendant) if she knew anything. Karla said she felt sorry for Lo and that Nillson thinks she is paranoid. Karla proceeds to tell Lo that the staff all needed their jobs and that she (Karla) has a son. “Just because perhaps someone let a friend use an empty cabin, that doesn’t mean she was killed, you know” and Lo shouldn’t “make trouble if nothing happened.” What did you think about this conversation?

17. Ernst Solberg was an investor who was supposed to be in Cabin 10, we find out that he was not on the cruise because his home was burglarized & his passport was stolen. Was this related to Lo’s break in?

18. There is an online “Whodunit” thread discussing Lo’s disappearance. What did you think about that?

19. Lo sees the girl from Cabin 10 outside her door and goes after her. Lo is then “kidnapped.” By this time, did you have your list of suspects? Who did you think was the Woman in Cabin 10?

20. Lo starts pumping her kidnapper for information. The kidnapper said, “You’re digging your grave, do you get that?” What did you think of Lo at this point?

21. What was your opinion of Carrie?

22. By the end of the book, what did you think of Lo?

23. Lo is home with Judah. They are in bed and she starts crying. Lo says “I can’t stop thinking of her, I can’t accept it, it’s all wrong.” Let’s talk about this.

24. Why do you think Lo had such a hard time accepting what happened to Lord Bullmer?

25. Why do you think Lo had a change of heart at the end of the novel and decided to move to New York?

  1. 26. What did you think of the last page of the novel, a deposit of 40,000 Swiss Franc went into Lo’s account with the reference “Tigger’s Bounce?”
  1. 27. Were there unanswered questions in the plot? If so, what wasn’t covered or finalized in the ending?
  1. 28. How effective were the email messages and articles in moving the story forward?

29. What did you think of Ruth Ware’s writing style? Were there any passages that struck you?

  1. 30. How would you describe the book?
  1. 31. What do you think of the following statement?: “We mostly don’t believe women, especially angry women.” (A 2015 study from Arizona State University that focused on jury reactions showed how angry men gain influence while angry women lose it.)

32. Would this have been a different read if it had been a male protagonist?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

YouTube Book Trailer
Book of the Month
Ruth Ware’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Culturefly interview with Ruth Ware “Interview with Ruth Ware”

READALIKES:

I See You book coverI See You
by Clare Mackintosh

The Couple Next Door book coverThe Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena

Every Last Lie book coverEvery Last Lie
by Mary Kubica

Book Discussion Questions: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

mr. penumbra's 24-hour bookstore book coverTitle: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Page Count: 288 pages
Genre: Tech Fiction, Adult Fiction for Teens
Tone: Likeable, Quirky, Offbeat

Summary: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone and landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, and never seem to actually buy anything. Soon he ropes his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on.

 

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Why did Ajax Penumbra hire Clay?

2. What is the purpose of recording everything about the customer’s physical features? (p. 19, “…were there button on his coat made of mother-of-pearl? Or were they horn? Some kind of metal? Copper?”)

3. What do you think of Clay? Was he an accessible protagonist? How was he uniquely able to help Mr. Penumbra on his quest?

4. How does the novel deal with old and new technology? What do you think about that?

5. As the “information superhighway” began to really take off, many predicted that there would no longer be any use for libraries. What do you think about that? What has happened? Can the old ways coexist with the new? What does the book say about the idea that you can find everything on Google?

6. What did you think was happening in the bookstore? Did you think there was something nefarious happening?

7. What role does Corvina play in the story? What does he represent? How do you feel about him? Is he right to act as he does?

8. Kat introduces the concept of Singularity – “the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization” – on p. 58 (Wikipedia). She says you have to be an optimist. Is our feeling toward the future regarding technology’s role dependent upon how optimistic or pessimistic we are?

9. Mr. Penumbra tells Clay he didn’t know young people still read books. (p. 65) He looks at Clay’s Kindle, noticing things that are good about, such as being able to make the font bigger. He also notices the font is a very old one, Gerritszoon. Is/was the Kindle a positive example of a new way to interface with the old?

10. Why is the book set in San Francisco? What role did that city play in the story? Why did New York make an appearance?

11. There was a lot of concern during the time of Guttenberg and Manutius, as people worried printing houses would take work away from monks, and would replace skilled labor with unskilled labor, and take away the prestige of books as they became more accessible to common people. Was that concerned founded? What is the similarity between that and what is happening today as far as books and technology?

12. What role did The Dragonslayer Chronicles play in this book? Would you publish the third book or leave it hidden forever?

13. Describe Clay’s friend Neel and their relationship?

14. Which character did you most relate to? Why? Which character did you least relate to?

15. What do you think about the answer to “our greatest question”/how to live forever?

16. Why does the Festina Lente company embrace technology but the Unbroken Spine does not?

17. Society’s reaction to the advent of the printing press was somewhat similar to society’s reaction to the Kindle. Why? Were the opponents of printing houses correct to feel as they did? What about those who felt the Kindle and ebooks would destroy reading and book culture?

“ChurchHatesTucker points us to a wonderful historical analysis of a 15th century luddite, abbot Johannes Trithemius, who was no fan of the printing press, because of what it was going to do to those poor monks. It wasn’t just that it would put them out of work, but that it would impact their souls. He worried that the printing press would make monks lazy.

It was okay that the act of copying was hard. It built character, in Trithemius’s opinion, the same way as chopping wood (though to this “interior exercise,” i.e. exercise of the spirit, he assigned far more importance). For monks, labor was part and parcel of devotion, and if you weren’t good at writing, you could do binding, or painting, or for heaven’s sake practice. And it goes even further: the labor of manuscript writing was something for monks to do — for there was no greater danger for the devout soul than idleness.

For among all the manual exercises, none is so seemly to monks as devotion to the writing of sacred texts.

He also pulls out the typical “but this new fangled thing just isn’t as nice as the old stuff”: He does spend some time talking about practical reasons that printed books weren’t anything to get bothered about: their paper wasn’t as permanent as the parchment the monks used (he even advocates the hand-copying of “useful” printed works for their preservation); there weren’t very many books in print, and they were hard to find; they were constrained by the limitations of type, and were therefore ugly.” (Predictions by Mike Masnick, www.techdirt.com February 25. 2011)

18. There were many opposing reviews of this book. How many of you found the book to be charming? Overly-convenient? Clever? Implausible? Fun? Did you think ever-present synchronistic elements add to or detracted from the plot?

19. Would you recommend Mr. Penumbra to a friend? What other books would you recommend to a fan of this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

New York Times review, “Bookworms and Apples”
Slate review “Scanners”
Robin Sloan’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
NPR interview with Robin Sloan “‘Mr. Penumbra’ Bridges the Digital Divide”

READALIKES:

The Invisible Library book coverThe Invisible Library
by Genevieve Cogman

S book coverS.
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Book Discussion Questions: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale book coverTitle: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Page Count: 311 pages
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, Literary Fiction
Tone: Complex, Introspective, Disturbing, Reflective

Summary:
Offred, a Handmaid, describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a shockingly repressive and intolerant monotheocracy. It is set in the near future in which women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Did you find this book relatable and believable, or did you find it far-fetched as Mary McCarthy did in her 1986 New York Times’ book review? What triggered the rise of this theonomy in the pre-Gilead United States? What part did infertility and declining birthrates play? Is this a realistic premise?

2. Let’s talk about taking away the credit cards and freezing the bank assets. Did you understand Offred and her husband Luke’s reaction to the situation? Did you understand Luke’s reasoning that he would be able to help her in spite of the government restrictions? In times of sudden conflict, do people generally try to rationalize rather than react swiftly? Could Offred and Luke have done anything to stop what happened after the coup? As the U. S. government was collapsing, why didn’t Luke and Offred do more to escape?

3. If you read this in 1986 when it was written, would anything resonate differently for you? Did anyone read this long ago? Is history repeating itself, or why has this story made a comeback?

4. What accounts for the Commander’s interest in Offred? Is it genuine? Is genuine possible in Gilead?

5. What do you think of Moira’s placement at the brothel? Why was she not simply killed or made to work in the radioactive fields? What happens to strong women who don’t follow the crowd? Is it different than what happens to strong men who don’t follow the crowd?

6. In this novel handmaids no longer have unique names, but are given the name of the male head of the household, e.g. Of-Fred, Offred. How is that effective in eliminating these women’s identity? Is there any modern day custom in our culture that is similar? What are your thoughts about that?

7. Author Margaret Atwood said, “I didn’t put in anything that we haven’t already done, we’re not already doing, we’re seriously trying to do, coupled with trends that are already in progress… So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of pure invention is close to nil.” What means of effective oppression previously used in history did the rulers of Gilead use to keep their system in place?

8. Why, if many of the novel’s plot points were literally true, would people have difficulty finding them believable or relatable?

9. Let’s talk about Serena Joy, the commander’s wife. How did you feel about her? What made her who she was? Talk about her life before Gilead? Was this what she wanted, did she “buy into” the premise of Gilead? Did she have more of voice that the handmaids? Did she have a better position?

10. Ofglen is the first character Offred meets who is a part of the resistance. How does she know Offred would be a potential member of the resistance? Why would any handmaid not be a part of the resistance?

11. How did you feel religion was handled in this book? It is a missive against religion? Atwood said the people running Gilead are “”not really interested in religion; they’re interested in power.” Do you agree?

12. How would you classify this book?

13. As Anna Sheffer writes in “The Epilogue of the Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book,” “Pieixoto himself describes the process of naming the transcribed document, saying that “all puns were intentional, particularly that having to do with the archaic vulgar signification of the word tail; that being, to some extent, the bone, as it were, of Gileadean society.” The two male researchers take full advantage of their ability to title the manuscript and bestow on it a cheeky name that alludes to and, by making a pun, mocks Offred’s sexual servitude.” How does that make you feel?

14. Offred’s true identity was never discovered, but the commander was believed to have been one of two men, both of whom were glorified for their services to Gilead. How does that resonate with the way in which history is communicated? Does that weaken Offred’s story?

15. This book was written in a way that was less polished and more disjointed than other Atwood books. Why might that be? What is the book supposed to be? How did Offred communicate her story?

16. There was not much written about the powerful people at the top of the government who ran Gilead? Why would that be? In this story we are looking back a couple hundred years in the past. How does that vantage point affect what we’ve learned? How is history illuminated or distorted by the way it is told? Who usually writes history?

17. Are you glad you read this story? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Relevant Today” via The BBC
“The Epilogue of The Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book” via Electric Lit
interview with Forbes: “Author Margaret Atwood On Why ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Resonates in 2018
New York Times 1986 book review
SparkNotes literary guide
Margaret Atwood’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Literary Hub interview with Margaret Atwood

READALIKES:

When She Woke book coverWhen She Woke
by Hillary Jordan

1984 book cover1984
by George Orwell

The Silence of the Girls book coverThe Silence of the Girls
by Pat Barker

The Swallows of Kabul book coverThe Swallows of Kabul
by Yasmina Khadra

Future Home of the Living God book coverFuture Home of the Living God
by Louise Erdrich

Brave New World book coverBrave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Book Discussion Questions: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title:  News of the World
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven

Summary:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?

22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide

READALIKES:

Bohemian Girl book coverBohemian Girl
by Terese Svoboda

True Grit book coverTrue Grit
by Charles Portis

Far as the Eye Can See book coverFar As the Eye Can See
by Robert Bausch

Book Discussion Questions: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Title: Lucky Boy
Author:  Shanthi Sekaran
Page Count: 472 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multiple Perspectives
Tone: Sympathetic, Moving

Summary:
A wrenching emotional battle ensues between Soli, an undocumented Mexican single mother, and Kavya, an Indian-American chef who cannot have children, when Soli’s infant son is placed in Kavya’s care during an immigration detention.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. How would you describe Soli as a character? How would you describe Kavya? In what ways were they similar?

2. Did you relate to one woman more than the other? If so, why?

3. What was Kavya’s reasoning to keep Iggy? What was Soli’s reasoning to keep Iggy?
Who do you think Ignacio should have ended up with?

4. Do you agree with this statement? “This story, this fight for a boy—it wasn’t about the boy. It was about his mothers.”

5. Did Iggy adjust between the change in family okay?

6. Why did the author spend so much time developing the characters on their own before we get into the fight for Ignacio?

7. What makes a person privileged? How does this relate to Kavya and Soli’s stories?

8. What was Soli’s desire to move in the first place? Did anything surprise you about her journey?

9. What did you think of Soli’s employers, the Cassidy’s? Why did they have such a weird relationship with Soli?

10. Does Kavya’s love for Iggy change her understanding of heritage? Does it change her husband’s and parents’ understanding of heritage?

11. Is Silvia a good role model for Soli? Why or why not?

12. Is Silvia’s lie forgivable?

13. Was this an accurate portrayal of motherhood?

14. We explore a lot about Soli and Kavya as mothers. What about their own mothers? How do they act as mothers?

15. Between all of the characters, is there any version of motherhood not shared?

16. How did Rishi plan for Iggy? How did they bond?

17. Was there any symbolism with Rishi’s work with Weebie?

18. How did Kavya’s relationship with Preeti change?

19. What did you think about the scenes with the immigration detention center?

20. Does this story remind you of any stories from the news?

21. From the publisher: “Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero.” Do you agree with that?

22. Was Ignacio a lucky boy?

23. Was there anything that surprised you about this book?

24. What made these characters real rather than just symbols? Were there any characters that felt like just symbols?

25. Does the author make a moral claim/vote for what she believes is right?

26. Which character developed the most?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

NPR article, “Immigration and Infertility Bring Two Mothers Over One ‘Lucky Boy'”
Public Radio International article, “The Novel ‘Lucky Boy’ and a Timely Story of Immigration and Motherhood”
Q&A with author Shanti Sekaran
Discussion Guide from LitLovers
Video: author Shanthi Sekaran shares at UC Berkeley
Book review from New York Journal of Books

READALIKES:

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