Thursday, August 8, 2013


BREAKING NEWS: If you are in a position to review or spread the word about an Audible copy of HEIRS AND GRACES, please contact Rhys for more information. She has a few copies....RhysBowen at comcast dot net 
AND Rosemary Harris's THE BITCHES OF BROOKLYN is free to download today and tomorrow only! Click here.


LUCY BURDETTE: It seems odd to me that mysteries and crime fiction can be lumped into a category of non-book club books--in other words, escapist reading, nothing worth discussing. We couldn't disagree more! With September around the corner and book clubs resuming meeting or planning their reads for the year, we thought we'd make a few suggestions. From each red, a book, a couple of discussion questions, and something memorable to eat along with it.

I'll start:)

TOPPED CHEF, the third book in the Key West food critic mystery series by Lucy Burdette

Things to discuss:

1.  TOPPED CHEF opens with Hayley worrying about her first negative review. How do you feel about restaurant reviews, either online or in newspapers? Do you trust them? Do you write them? Do you feel critics should write about their negative experiences as well as their positive?

2. One of the most challenging parts of writing a mystery with an amateur sleuth has to do with her stake in solving the mystery. Were you convinced by Hayley's insistence on getting involved in this story? How does this fit with her character?
Find the whole list of discussion questions for TOPPED CHEF here:

What to eat: Lime cupcakes with lime cream cheese frosting

Recipe here.


1. The theme of remembering and honoring the past is prominent in There Was an Old Woman. Evie has dedicated her life to the preservation of memories, and Finn keeps all of the artifacts from the old Snakapins Park in his basement. Do you think it is important to preserve the past, and why? Are some things better left forgotten?

2. Evie and her sister Ginger are polar opposites. Evie played soccer; Ginger was a girl scout. Evie sees Ginger as the dutiful daughter and herself as the one who runs away. How might these two different personality types both have been shaped by the experience of growing up with an alcoholic mother?
What to eat: Discuss it over Chinese Dim Sum.


ROSEMARY HARRIS: Now this is fun. I'm not in a book club these days. I went to a fabulous book club meeting in San Francisco last year. The members had agreed to read THE BITCHES OF BROOKLYN and act as my focus group. It was a blast.

Possible discussions -
1. Friendships - old and new - are at the heart of Bitches. Each of the women in the book, Jane, Tina, Rachel, Clare and Abby, questions the meaning of friendship, particularly childhood friendships. Are they better left in the past? What are the risks in trying to rekindle (no pun intended) old relationships?

2. Every decade of life brings its own set of issues. What are the insecurities each of the women faces?

3. All five of the women have called each other Bitch since high school when it was an epithet thrown by a jealous classmate. Now it's a term of endearment for them. What do you think about the word?

My gals are good eaters. Hallie's already claimed Chinese takeout and more's the pity readers can't camp out in Jane's Brooklyn bakery so I'd have to say a medium-priced Italian restaurant. Red-checkered tablecloth. With a bottle or two of good wine.
RHYS BOWEN: This is most timely for me as I have an author buzz going out to zillions of bookclubs next week with questions about my new book, Heirs and Graces. So here are some questions I gave to them.

1.    Lady Georgiana seems to have a privileged life. What are some ways in which her life is not so rosy?
2.    This story centers around the heir to a great estate. Discuss that whole concept, plus other instances of property entailment disrupting lives in literature

3.    These Royal Spyness books are funny�gentle satire of English aristocracy. But there are always serious undertones. What are some in this book?

And food to serve? Well, it has to be a classic English tea party with thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches, warm scones topped with strawberry jam and cream. Mmmm. Now I'm feeling hungry (or peckish as my characters would say)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: OH, fabulous. I'm  tempted to discuss THE OTHER WOMAN, with all its juicy discussion possibilities about infidelity, and sex as power, and the conflict in failing marriages. But let's go with THE WRONG GIRL, coming Sept 10!

1. The book opens with Jane's friend Tuck suspecting the adoption agency that's  reunited her with her birth mother has made a mistake---and, as she says, "sent that poor woman the wrong girl." As a reporter, I know that's happened in real life. What if that had happened to you think--just based on instinct--you would know it? (Do you know anyone searching for their birth parents? Did they find them?)

2.  The Wrong Girl also takes an inside look at the state's foster care system--where children need homes--and there aren't always enough of them. HAve you been in foster care, or known someone who was? Have you ever taken in a foster child? Or wanted to? Why or why not? How well did that system work?

Food? Well,  Jane is always rushing, and I'm tempted to say fast food! But it's in Boston, so let's say luscious creamy clam chowder from Legal Seafoods with those little round crackers and a twist of pepper,, accompanied by a crisp white sauvignon blanc.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, fun! (And I want everybody's food!) Here are a couple of questions for readers of The Sound of Broken Glass:

1) We see in the back story that young Andy Monahan is the caretaker of his alcoholic mother. How does this affect his ability to form relationships when we meet him again, fifteen years later? Do you believe it's possible for children of alcoholic parents to form happy and stable relationships as adults?

2) The seed of much that happens in this novel is bullying. How might Andy's life have been different if he'd had adult support in dealing with the boys who bullied him? Do you believe that Nadine was bullied as well? Were there characters who could have stood up for her and made a difference in the course of her life?

Now, food! I think my book group should have delicious, hearty sandwiches from The Jolly Gardener pub in Putney--roast beef with horseradish; thick, sharp English cheddar slathered with Branston pickle; roast turkey with cranberries--accompanied by a big platter of fresh fruit, good beer, and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. (My characters have theirs with tea, but they're working!)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: This is a perfectly timed subject, because I need to supply my editor with questions for THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS, my November release. Like Rhys, I'll be having an author buzz going out to book groups (though not for another couple of months) and St. Martin's library division posts discussion questions online. Pro tip for book club organizers: lots of publishers do this! If your group is reading something that doesn't come with discussion suggestions in the back of the book, check the publisher's website.

1. At one point, Russ tells Clare, "I won't say a word against [having a baby]. But don't expect me to pretend to be happy about it." Is his attitude reasonable, given that they agreed, as a couple, not to have children, or is he being stubborn about not getting his way?

2. Officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn are assigned to work together to try to find Mikayla Johnson, the missing girl. At the same time, they're becoming closer personally. Should they put the brakes on their relationship? Is it unprofessional for them to get involved again, especially during a high-stakes investigation?

3.  There are many types of families in THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS: Clare and Russ and their impending baby, Mikayla and her dysfunctional, criminal parents,  Hadley and her ex fighting over custody. What do these relationships say about the effect of parenthood on couples and on individuals? What is the author saying about the responsibilities of parenting versus the pleasures of having a child?

For an accompanying meal: Russ and Clare have a hearty, delicious stew in their remote lakeside cabin, perfect for a book group discussion on a cold November night. Of course, they don't have any alcohol, but I would recommend a nice Cotes-du-Rhone and some crusty bread to sop up the broth.

Don't forget to leave a comment--best book club discussion ever? best meal eaten with a book group? And you'll be entered in a drawing for an advanced copy of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS.


  1. With great questions like these, we could have a fantastic Jungle Reds Book Club . . . I want to be part of all these book club discussions!
    And yummy menus, too? It's all good . . . .

  2. My first year English teacher in college invited me to a University Women's book club meeting at her house. I enjoyed it more because I was invited and because most of the women there were professionals and much older. I'm chuckling, because now I realize she had to have been in her early 30s, and the oldest woman there couldn't have been more than 40 or 45. It was like an initiation into an adulthood that I had dreamed of—one where women read books and talked about different ideas and the interesting things they'd read.

    My professor was new at our school. Her husband had recently been killed in Vietnam. She had left the town where they lived and made a place for herself in our small community miles away from memories. I can't think of this without crying, because she meant so much to me then and still does.

    After graduation we became good friends. She remarried, and our husbands became good friends. Our daughter studied English with her as did her boyfriend and future husband. Whenever we visited our daughter in California, we visited our friends at their house—the house where the University Women's book club meeting was held— the house she had bought from our son-in-law's parents. Whenever we were there we would invite our friends to dinner. Sometimes they would have us over. One of those dinners at their house was the last we had with our daughter a few months before she died. I can't write anymore about this best book club meeting, but it was the best book club meeting ever.

  3. I'm reading about all this good food much too early. I need an Alka-Seltzer.

  4. I had to disband my 17-years-running bookclub once I started my blog, but these books and questions certainly make me wish it was still going strong.

    Our best discussion was probably The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Just a wonderful book, mystery, setting. Everything was just perfect for a book club discussion.

  5. Fabulous questions. Thank you, all.

    Now I'm looking at these books in a different light.

    I need to find a local book club. With good food.

  6. Dear Reine, what a lovely memory.

    I was in a book group for a few years and the best part was that I read a lot of books I'd never have picked up otherwise. Got me out of my comfort zone, which all of OUR books are squarely IN.

  7. Oh, this is yummy. I've never been in a book club (and never wanted to do so), but I'm suddenly wishing for one! These questions are wonderful, and the food suggestions--made me hungry. I'm off to send a link to this post to some book club-participating friends (and to find a snack).

  8. I've only been in one book club, but some members just weren't really readers and none of us shared an interest in a lot of the same books. We're now a dinner club meeting monthly. We all like to eat.

    The Reds help keep my TBR stack at a comfortable, high, teetering tower, and I thank you!

  9. When I moved here to Falmouth, MA, I joined the Newcomer's Club, and through them found a brand-new MYSTERY book club. It has been a lot of fun -- we read the first Louise Penny Insp.G, and an old Mary Higgins Clark. I never would have picked up "Hit Man" but now have read "Hit List"and plan to read more.

    I am sharing the Jungle Red url with the book club today. Thank you so much. The club meets at my house on Aug. 27, and we are reading "Blind Justice."

    Best discussion so far this year was "Defending Jacob."

  10. For several years I was part of a book club with several people from work. We met once a month on Saturday, discussed the book and had brunch. Champagne (or mimosas) required. Each member got to pick the book they wanted us to read and I agree with the comment that I read books I wouldn't have otherwise. I loved it when there were actually questions in the book, though we had lively discussions either way.
    When I moved, I joined a group led by a retired English literature professor. We read only short stories, two each week, and meet every Thursday morning to discuss. The group is huge in the winter (sometimes over 20 people attending) with less in the summer ( everyone is outside while they can be), but we all are committed to this group. It is almost like our own private community. All are retired or semi- retired, with several ex newspaper editors, teachers, librarians, etc. Lonnie usually has " discussion points" for our meetings. And I love to bake, so I try to make something at least once a month, in fact I have zucchini bread ready to go this morning.

  11. Yeah, I love the idea of being REQUIRED to read something we didn't choose.. I never would have picke BEL CANTO, for instance, and now, years later, I still think about it.

    I chose CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY by Edith Wharton, a book I adore, and the rest of the book club hated it. But--that's what makes it intersting!

  12. Lovely blog! I finally finish revisions and am able to visit my favorite blog again--and it's talking book clubs. I love it!

    Reine, what a touching story!

    I'm a member of two book clubs, but I've been missing in action for the last two meetings of each while getting this book done. I love the process where we all toss in book recommendations with little synopses and discuss back and forth until we come to some consensus on the next few months' worth of titles. As Hallie said, it means I'll read books I'd normally not have read.

  13. Wonderful stories! I think my book club has disbanded:). I too had the experience of reading things I never would have picked up on my own.

    In the beginning the hostess cooked dinner too. I made a wonderful Cuban pork roast when we discussed WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA.

    BEL CANTO is one of those books I wish I hadn't read so I could read it again, if that makes sense!

  14. I'm in three very different book clubs. The first one has been going on for a long time, and is mostly either librarians or women who worked at the library with the librarians, except for me and another woman, both neighbors of the woman who started the club. What is most interesting about this group is that they rarely read books that are outside the realm of popular fiction. They meet for lunch and there is always wine.

    The second group is another that has been going on a long time, close to 20 years. A couple members went to high school together, and the circle includes family members and friends. This group includes vegetarians and gluten-intolerants, so the dinner dishes are always healthy and inventive. And of course there is wine. I've learned the most from these friends; they have led me to discover some interesting authors I would not otherwise have picked up, although they also enjoy science fiction, a genre that leaves me cold. But when I had a chance to recommend Craig Ferguson's brilliant "Between the Bridge and the River", this was the group that got past the four-letter words, read it, and was able to discuss it. So I read their choices. It's only fair.

    The third group is virtual, comprised of friends who met online, in the comments section of the sadly defunct Lipstick Chronicles. (This group started 3 1/2 years ago as a diet and exercise support group, and we still report in twice a week, and we email back and forth every day.) We have read two books, so far, including Hank's "The Other Woman", and Hank very graciously participated in an email discussion of the book with us. That was great fun.

    And of course, wine at the computer. What else?

  15. PS Ro, I am downloading Bitches of Brooklyn onto my new smartphone--which is where I can read Kindle files! Can't wait to read it.

  16. I think our group's most memorable discussion was THE HISTORY OF LOVE. None of us understood it very well and we tried to figure it out together.

  17. These suggestions make me want to start a bookclub now. Never been in one but these sound like good suggestions.

  18. Every book club I have been invited to serves wine, and lots of it! And usually some yummy high-fat hot appetizer...

    The last group, who invited me to talk about Speaking of Murder, seemed to really want to talk about what it means to be a Quaker! My protagonist's Quakerism is really in the background, although it does inform her character and some of her conflicts. We spent quite a lot of time on the tenets of my own spiritual home.

  19. We had a great discussion of Jane Eyre in February, and then read "Flight of Gemma Hardy" a few months later. it was fabulous. We knit while talking, so not much snacks. I'd love to be the person who suggests the book club questions, that sounds like fun!

  20. Here's a question for Rhys and Julia: What do you mean exactly by "an author buzz going out to book clubs"? I immediately thought of M.J. Rose's Author Buzz service. Is that what you mean?

    How do you even get hooked into all the book clubs that are out there? (Curious about this because of my debut mystery--yay!--coming out next year.)

    I was in a book club for ages, and it was only after it disbanded that as a writer my take on books often differs from nonwriters. In some ways, I'm more forgiving. Like when we discussed a book everyone hated because they couldn't connect to the characters. I didn't hate the book--I could see what the author was doing. So I pointed out that their disconnection might be because the book was written in omniscient voice. Then we discussed why the author might have chosen this method. That was a great discussion. Wish I could remember the book...

  21. Whoops...might be hard to understand. First sentence should be: was only after it disbanded that I REALIZED THAT as a writer my take on books

  22. Lisa, I have found the same thing to be true. A couple women in the librarian book club always seem to forget that we're talking about fiction, something made up. They get very angry/upset/hurt/nostalgic about character actions.

  23. I don't have much book club experience. When we lived along a lake in Minnesota one of our neighbors invited me to her club meeting at her house. She provided dinner and wine and probably over a dozen ladies came. I read the book, which was by a MN author, so was prepared to discuss. Unfortunately the 2 ladies who had picked the book also ran the discussion and quashed any comments that didn't agree with their opinions. So mentally I said to hell with this! No more book club for me. My younger sister was in a book club in Salt Lake, so tried to start one when she moved back to Texas out in the boonies. It didn't last too long. Two of the ladies refused to read anything heavy; never mind that someone different picked out the book to read each month. My favorite book club of all time was the one on Malcolm in the Middle: the women showed up to drink and no one read the books!

  24. I wish I had time to join a book club. I'm lucky if I can steal enough moments to actually read a book in one month, much less meeting with a group to discuss it! But I always read the thought-provoking questions at the end of the books and ponder them in my head, if that counts.

  25. I downloaded Heirs and Graces lst evening, Rhys! I love it!
    I just downloaded Bitches from Broolyn. Rosemary, on my Kindle!
    I have never belonged to a book club, but it does sound interesting!

  26. I've never belonged to a book club but was invited to several when my first book came out. Every time there'd be at least one woman who didn't believe characters like the ones in my book existed (hard-drinking, profane, permanently horny). I don't know what kind of sheltered life they lived, but other members of the group would always steer them straight. The best response was when one woman said "Do I know guys like this? Hell, I married one."
    My favorite book club meeting though, was when the local library hired me to run their club one night. The group had read my book when a friend of mine was choosing for them and liked it and suggested to the library that they'd like to have me visit the group. I chose a friend's novel that I wanted to read anyway and we had a great discussion. One of the librarians said she'd never heard that much laughter come out of the club. A couple of months later the friend whose book we read was a guest of the group and it became a bit of a tradition, reading a local author's book and having them as a guest a couple of months later.

  27. The only book clubs I've belonged to have been the kind that you order books from. I think I'd like to eat some Stouffers' macaroni and cheese at a bookclub or meet at the cafe in Barnes & Noble and drink a Cafe Mocha and eat cheesecake.

    Too bad I can't take advantage of the free downloads but I don't own a computer or other device so I can't do Audible, etc. If the book was on C.D., I'd grab a copy!

    I'm a picky reader and mainly read cozy mysteries although I do accumulate other types of books. I'm not too crazy about reading a book that I otherwise wouldn't have, as lots of you have mentioned above. I probably wouldn't like the book. I have noticed more books with book club questions in them and it reminds me of being back in school in English class! Kind of scary. I was never too crazy about those analyzing questions. I guess I'd be lost and wouldn't know how to answer the questions at a book club.

  28. Lisa, yes, I think Julia and I both mean M.J. Rose's Authorbuzz which I'm trying for the first time with this book.

    I've certainly been deluged with entries for my contest for a signed book so it must work well.

  29. Larry, that's a lovely tradition you started. I think most of us writers love talking to book clubs--it's a real treat to chat with people who've read the book, and have questions and comments that I never anticipated!

    Pat, LOL, you do have to be a little flexible to join and enjoy a book club!

    Michelle, yeah, the one thing no one wants is to take the fun out of reading. But sometimes the questions in the back of a book can stimulate a good discussion. Mostly the publishers of cozy mysteries don't seem to use them, so I do the questions anyway and post them on my website.

  30. Our neighborhood book club does not normally do a meal unless it is at Christmas time. What we do is have all kinds of finger foods/appetizers/usually veggies and fruit related, then after the book discussion we have pastry and tea or coffee. Throughout the book club meeting, we all sip on wine, or something else prepared or offered by the hostess that month.

    Our December meeting has snacks and wine and whatever else anyone would like to drink, and after the book discussion, and doing a gift exchange, we do a MAKE YOUR OWN ICE CREAM SUNDAE dessert. Everyone brings a couple of ice cream toppings, including fresh fruit, whipped cream, nuts, etc. and we all make our sundaes to our tastes. Fun times at book club!!!

  31. Is there a special place to sign up to possibly win Bitches of Brooklyn? I would love to win this book and send it to my friend who lives IN Brooklyn. :) I loved the postings in this forum tonight. So good.
    Thank you.

  32. What a good day! I downloaded Bitches of Brooklyn, printed out a key lime cupcake recipe. . . what more could I want? Our neighborhood branch library has a mystery book discussion group. I have thought about joining, but it seems like every month when it meets I have a schedule conflict. Someday.

  33. Michelle, you can download a free Kindle, Barnes & Noble, or Audible app (among others) to your computer and listen to or read on your computer. You don't need an external device for that.

    You can download the free Audible app from the Amazon website.

  34. Hank, Lucy, I discovered Bel Canto in my to-read shelves that I've been cleaning out, so I guess it must move to the top of the list--after I finish the JK Rowling AND Through the Evil Days!

    Reine, lovely story. My daughter and I constantly share books. I can't begin to imagine how you must miss yours...

    I've never belonged to a book club, but have spoken to quite a few. Mostly fun, but I did have one quite obstreperous lady when I spoke to a group in SF last winter. She kept saying that I couldn't possibly be qualified to write British books, and whenever anyone else tried to speak she interrupted to say it more emphatically.

    Sometimes you really wish you could say what you think!

  35. I've never been in a book club mainly because I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it. I had to read certain things for work for so many years that now that I am retired it is all fun reading, including all the Reds!!

  36. My book club is eclectic, reading fiction and non-fiction, but we all like mysteries and thrillers. Two of the most memorable discussions were the ones involving Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night and Julia's In the Bleak Midwinter.

    The Gaudy Night discussion was interesting as you could clearly distinguish those who were familiar with Sayers and the sensibilities of the times. For those not so, they found it bewildering and annoying.

    Julia's In the Bleak Midwinter provoked the most lively discussion we've had! After all, the book group is primarily Episcopalian.
    Many couldn't believe Clare would ever be allowed to become a priest. Several were formerly associated with the military, and found the details about what would be allowed to a West Point cadet were inaccurate. Others were perfectly happy with a willing suspension of disbelief in regard to fiction or with the social justice issues, especially in conjunction with the church. Lively, indeed!

    theythey fo

  37. I read a lot but haven't done book clubs; have trouble keep up with on-line groups, and spending an evening - not likely. I need to have the book fresh in my mind in order discuss it, and since I just finished reading "Top Chef," I buzzed through the list - interesting. As for the other books, the questions are intriguing, and I'll add them to my list, although I'm still not set up with an e-reader.

  38. I read a lot but haven't done book clubs; have trouble keep up with on-line groups, and spending an evening - not likely. I need to have the book fresh in my mind in order discuss it, and since I just finished reading "Top Chef," I buzzed through the list - interesting. As for the other books, the questions are intriguing, and I'll add them to my list, although I'm still not set up with an e-reader.

  39. Reine, I don't OWN a computer so a free Kindle application doesn't help me. I use the Internet computers at the library so I can't download anything. Even if I did, it wouldn't be there next time I used a computer. I can always check the book (Rhys Bowen's latest) out from the library. It's probably not on C.D. I have a lot of her books at home to read including Royal Blood and Naughty in Nice.

  40. Our club is starting Sept. with Breaking Free by Denis Hickey. It's a travel book but a memoir so it's got a personal touch. Looks great, I cracked it to see if I would like it! He's got another book to follow out soon so we can do both. His info at, I never have read one like this at Club, so I hope it works!