Sunday, January 19, 2020

Jungle Reds' Discussion Questions for Book Groups

HALLIE EPHRON: Whenever I finish a reading a book, I find myself desperate to talk about it with someone else who’s read it. For those of us in a book group or book club, we’re fortunate to have a go-to source of like-minded readers to talk about the books we loved… or hated… or simply stirred us up and got us thinking.

From an author’s point of view, we’re thrilled when a book group decides to read one of our books. We’re often asked for discussion questions, so today we’re offering a list of questions for each of our latest books. And inviting you, please, at the end, to share your own experiences in a book group and what kind of questions you’ve found generate the most interesting discussions when your book picks a mystery novel. 

LUCY BURDETTE: In my ninth Key West food critic mystery, A DEADLY FEAST, food critic Hayley Snow is set to be married to her heartthrob detective Nathan Bransford. But she has a lot of worries because Nathan’s been married before and both sets of parents were married and then divorced. So she canvasses her friends and family about their experiences with marriage. I’m hoping this book might make for a good book club discussion!

1. What’s your theory about what makes for a good marriage?
2. Does it seem to you that Nathan and Hayley are a good match? Why or why not?
3. When you’re reading about a fictional wedding, how much do you like to hear about wedding plans and details?
4. What are your favorite examples of fictional weddings, either books or movies? Explain why you chose them.
And for some non-wedding questions:
5. Have you ever gone on a food tour? If so where? If not yet, what place would you love to eat your way around?
6. Martha Hubbard talks about chefs feeling possessive about the recipes they make and serve—they don’t want diners making substitutions. How do you feel about that?
7. How do you feel about Hayley’s relationship with her mother? And compare this to her relationship with Miss Gloria and Allison, her stepmother.
8. Hayley’s boss Palamina says she never understood why Hayley was living with a senior citizen, until she met Miss Gloria. How do you feel about this character? Does she accurately reflect seniors?

If you'd like to invite Lucy to speak to you group, contact her at RAISLEIB "at" GMAIL DOT COM.

If not, get some wine and go into the other room and finish the book! Everyone else...

1. How did you feel about the ending?
2. When you started the book, how did you feel about Rachel and Jack’s marriage? The dynamics of their relationship? What was the balance of power in that relationship?
3. How do you feel about lawyers and what they do? If you’re a lawyer, what parts of the book capture a legal reality for you? If you’re not a lawyer, which lawyer in the obok did you like the most? DId that change as the book progressed?
4. How do you think women’s issues--sisterhood, support, mentoring--change professional relationships? How did Martha use hat? How did Rachel use that? How did Clea use that?
5. We are never in the point of view of the reporter Clea, but we hear her described-very differently by the three characters who deal with her. How do Jack, Martha and Rachel think of the journalist--and what do you think about how different those descriptions of her are?
6. Have you ever been so madly in love with someone that you would do anything to “get” them? Which characters in the book are obsessed with someone?
7. We think about unreliable narrators--but aren’t we all unreliable? Because we’re describing the world the way WE see it? Or the way we want it? And lawyers, especially, have to be able to argue both sides of any story. How does that prism change how you understood the book?
8. Have you ever been on a jury? What did you think about what happened in the deliberation room? If you’re called to jury duty in the future--will this realistic portrayal change how you think about the jury system?
9. If you were a lawyer, would you want to be a prosecutor? Or a defense attorney? Why?
10. The title THE MURDER LIST has at least three meanings--maybe more. What did you think it meant when the book began--and what did you think at the end? 

To request Hank for an event or speaking engagement, please contact 

RHYS BOWEN: These discussion questions for my new book, Above the Bay Of Angels, that will be published on February 11. Maybe you can think about the questions when you read it. 

Above the Bay of Angels is a story of a young girl, cheated out of the life she expected but able to shine when she becomes a cook for Queen Victoria and experiences the delights of French cuisine when the queen goes to Nice. 

1. Do you think Bella made a wise choice when she acted on the letter she found?
2. One of the themes of this book is the British class system. Do you think it right that Bella remains a snob?
3. Food plays a big part in this book. What does Bella learn about food as the story progresses.
4. The journey to Nice opens up a whole new world to Bella. Why do you think she is able to appreciate it more than her fellow cooks?
5. Discuss Bella’s relationship with her sister
6. The story in Nice has its basis in real history. Did the plots and intrigue enhance the story for you?
7. In what ways is this a mystery rather than a simple historical novel?
8. Which character did you dislike most? (There were several really objectionable ones, weren’t there?)
9. What was your impression of Queen Victoria from this story? Did it agree with what you already knew about her?
10. Did you agree with the ending? Were you surprised? Did she make the right choice?

If you would like your bookclub to Skype with Rhys do contact her at and visit her website for updates.


1.Do you think the portrayal of Viv’s experience in the kitchen at O’Reilly’s was realistic? What special challenges do women chefs face in the kitchen?
2.Why do you think Viv cut off all contact with Fergus? How might things have turned out differently if she had not?
3.How do the events of the book change Viv’s relationship with her own kitchen staff?
4.Why did Melody withhold the truth about her family and their circumstances from Andy?
5.Do you feel that Melody’s relationship with Andy can be repaired? How might it be different?
6.What qualities does Kit have that are consequential to the resolution of the story and Grace’s safe return?
7.Do you feel that Melody’s relationship with her parents, and in particular, her mother, has changed by the novel’s end?
8.How does Duncan’s injury affect his handling of the case?
9.Why does Duncan feel driven to learn what happened to Nell Greene?
10. Are there any commonalities in the revelations experienced by the major characters? If so, what are they?

To arrange an author appearance, Deborah's publicist at Harper Collins:


Interestingly enough, I have to write reader’s questions for my July book PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA this week. It’s a new genre for me, single title romantic comedy, but I’m having a lot of fun with discussion possibilities. Here’s my starting place, we’ll see which of these make it into the back of the book!

1. What event causes Chelsea to reconsider the path her life is presently on?
2. Do you think revisiting her past will help Chelsea to move forward with her future?
3. What is Chelsea looking for? What does she hope to find in revisiting her post college gap year?
4. Which of the three loves of her postcollege gap your is your favorite? Why?
5. When does Chelsea start to see her work rival, Jason Knightley, in a different light?
6. What happened that kept Chelsea from moving forward with her life? Why?
7. How does grief play a role in both Chelsea and Jason’s lives?
8. How does Chelsea’s relationship with her family change during the course of the book?
9. What does Chelsea learn about revisiting her past? Why couldn’t she be the girl she once was again?
10. What does Chelsea learn about herself during her trip? How is she different at the end of the novel from who she was at the beginning?

To contact Jenn, reach out to publicist Brittanie Black, PRH Publicity: 

HALLIE EPHRON: Careful What You WIsh For

1.There are three couples in the book (Emily and Frank, Ruth and “Murph,” and Quinn and Wally.) How is “stuff” a dynamic in each of their marriages?
2.How did Emily and Frank’s fertility problems affect their relationship? How has it affected Emily’s relationship with Becca?
3. What is Emily’s relationship with her mother? How are they alike; how are they different?
4. At the end of the novel, why do you think Emily goes with Frank to the storage unit?
5. Do you think Frank got what he deserved in the end?
6. What do you collect, and what does it say about you?
7. Have you known a hoarder? What skills do you think a professional organizer needs to help someone like that? 
8. Do you think Emily and Becca made any decisions that a more experienced professional might not have made?
9. What do you think the title CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR refers to?
10. The author has said that one of the inspirations for this book was the Patricia Highsmith novel, Strangers on a Train. Can you see the similarities and differences?

If you would like your bookclub to Skype with Hallie, please contact her at Hallie "at"; check her website for her events.

Now we'd love to hear about your experiences in a book discussion group. We'd love to hear all about it... 

What are the books that were particularly interesting or difficult to discuss? And what kind of questions you’ve found generate the most interesting discussions when your book picks a mystery novel. 


  1. Interesting questions . . . as I read them, I’m thinking how I would answer for the books I’ve read. But I don’t belong to a book discussion group, so I’m always reading on my own and I have no particular experiences to share :(

  2. Since Julie and I read many of the same books, I have a live-in opportunity for discussion. On occasion we read the same book at the same time, so those discussions have carefully to avoid spoilers

    I also discuss my reading with a group of friends, people I know but rarely see as they live all over the country. The discussion venue may be private, more or less public on Facebook or Goodreads, or in a news group that has been going for 25 years now. There are only six of us left of the 40 or so that belonged in the beginning, but we are fast friends, all know each other in real time, and have similar tastes in literature.

    One person, my friend Nancy in Seattle, may be Debs's biggest fan ever, and I can happily say that I introduced her to Gemma and Duncan.

    But belonging to a book club that I attend monthly has no appeal to me. I suspect I'm becoming an introvert == if not an anchorite -- in my dotage. To begin with, my daily goal is to be upstairs in bed by eight p.m., curled up with two dogs and a book. I find it difficult to read if there are any distractions at all, and that includes looking out a window. But for three hours each night I read, bookended by Toby and Penny, phone turned off or at least silenced.

    At ten p.m. precisely, both dogs rise up, stretch and shake, and look at me with their piercing black eyes. Time to go outside for that last potty break. Down they go and Julie lets them out. Then they return to me and we settle in for that last hour before sleep overtakes me. I rarely remember what's in that last chapter tho, have to start over the next night, a few pages back.

    For those of you in book clubs, how do you choose what you will read each month? And how often is it a book you'd just as soon pass over? Is there a group leader or moderator? Do people come prepared with questions or is it more informal? Do you limit the number of participants? Do you go all out with snacks or just open a jar of peanuts? Adult beverages or a nice cup of tea?

    One last note: I occasionally read the suggested questions in the back of some books, and so far I haven't found one I would ask.

    Love and good morning from your resident curmudgeon,

    1. Ann, this is true of me as well. I find the questions annoying--as if I can't process what I've read by myself. I know they are meant for bookclubs, generally I just ignore them.

  3. I'm not in a book group, either - but I write a series about one (except half the time they're talking about the mystery at hand, not the book...)!

    I also love it when I'm invited to groups. Do any of you have the problem that the book the group is reading is one you wrote two or three years ago and you've written one or more since? They might ask me a question about a character's motivation or some relationship and I have No Idea. I might turn it around and ask, sweetly (as I panic), "Why do you think she did that?" or "I'm not sure - what do you think?"

    1. Edith, exactly. Terrify when they are reading something I wrote twenty something years ago and have no clue!!!

  4. Never been in a book club, so, will be interested in the answers that will be coming in.

  5. I have never been in a book group and really have no desire to join one. Sometimes I look at the suggested questions for book groups and I never seem to be interested in answering them either. But at the same time I would dearly love to connect with someone who has just read the same book I did. Once while waiting at a doctor's office I saw a woman reading a book by the same author I was reading; I caught her eye and held up my book. Our books were part of a series where I was maybe 5 books in and she was reading one of the much later books. She hadn't read from the beginning but happened to find one of them at the library and went on from there. I encouraged her to go back and read the first ones so she would have a better background but she didn't seem too concerned about that although she did ask me some questions about it. I've often wondered about her and if she continued reading the series or went on to something else and if so what it was.
    Lucy, I am in the middle of your book now so I can at least relate to those questions and maybe I'll review them when I finish. I do love Hayley and her gang! And the food!!!

  6. Timely question, as I just took my turn hosting book club on Thursday.

    We meet roughly once a month, although some longer books require more time to read. The person hosting gets to choose what we'll read next, and since so many of our members use the library we check availability before the meeting to be sure there are enough copies. We also, because of this, try to find older books, since they're less likely to have long hold waits. When I joined about ten years ago, two members were sight-impaired, so we tried to pick books with audio availability. That is still a consideration, since at least one member listens on her way to work on the bus.

    We used to use the questions in some books, but we've gotten away from that, not sure why. But our group is an interesting bunch of intelligent people, and we almost always seem to have a lively discussion.

    Everyone in our group is also a good cook, including the men, and we try to bring potluck dishes that fit the book in some way. For instance, our recent read was Willa Cather's My Antonia, so I made a venison roast, and one person brought vegetarian goulash (several members are vegetarian). And of course there is always wine.

  7. PS Hallie did a Skype visit for this book club a couple years ago. Except for some technical issues, it was a big success.

  8. My young adult daughter invited me to her Sunday brunch book group. The young women all struggled to read the monthly book during their commutes, but eagerly anticipated the gathering.

  9. So interesting! I am not, nor have I ever been in a book group. My husband reads some of the same authors that I do and we have loads of fun talking about them. I introduced him to Gemma and Duncan, to Billy Boyle (James R. Benn) and even to Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), and to Andreas Kaldis (Jeffrey Siger) plus several other authors whom he read a bit then stopped. As soon as both of us have read a book, we go full on about the characters, especially.
    I have a book buddy in Florida, whom I just visited this past week. Anne and I love to talk about the authors we love. I have just pointed her to this blog, although she has already read several Jungle Reds. I insisted that this is the place to go to find authors you will love to read. Thank you, Jungle Reds. I am now well into series by Roberta (Lucy), Julia and Rhys, having read all of Debs and many of Hank. My new year's resolution is to read more Reds and I am going to read some of each by the end of December.

  10. Interesting questions. I’ve never been in a book group but sometimes I do wish I had someone to talk to about a book I just read. I do talk books with my friends, but just realized we focus more on recommending books than we do discussing books we’ve both/all read.

  11. No book club here. I had a short chuckle, guffaw while reading the responses, the first five responders were not in book clubs either. The long and the short of it is: 1) I work 40+ hours a week, 2) I'm not sure I want others telling what to read, kinda reminds me of school and writing book reports, 3) people have done such a great job making me feel in stupid and inferior that it's too intimidating speaking my opinions in front of people. I'm okay being more anonymous here, I'm not making eye conduct with any of you.

  12. I so enjoy talking to book club groups! They are always so invested in the story and the discussions surprise me - when people see things in the book I didn't realize I'd put it in the story. Love that.

  13. I’m in a book group but unfortunately we hardly ever discuss mysteries. We usually read a heavy literary novel with horrible family dysfunction or a family tragedy as the central plot. I have a difficult time getting through the books, but we usually have a lively discussion so that is a bonus. I go for the conversation and sometimes a good book is suggested.

  14. Very interesting, now I have a question for the authors. Did you have any of these questions in mind when you were writing your books? If so, how did they help form the story?

    1. Oh, good question, Kait. I think all my questions were things I was thinking about as I wrote the book. Vic's challenges and n motivations were the main driver of the story for me, and I'd love to know if readers feel I did her justice.

    2. I think that Viv is a very sympathetic character. Not having experience in a professional kitchen, but knowing the pressure of preparing a meal for your own guests, it seemed very realistic to me.
      The conflict created when Andy discovers Melody's background, and Doug's involvement in it, is an essential part of the on-going development of your characters and their relationships. That was one of the most stunning parts of the book for me, and any discussion of this book needs to include that.

    3. I+OH great question. Ah..nope, actually, I don't think so! Well, wait. Certainly about what kind of lawyer people would choose to be--that was a central question of the book!

  15. Dear Jungle Reds, thank you very much! I would love to invite you to participate in an online discussion of your book, either on Facebook or Instagram. Sorry, no video chats for me.

    Since I have been participating in Cozy Experience online book discussions on Facebook, I have participated several times when I was able to find the novel written by the author who is participating in that event.

    Some of you are following me on Instagram and some of you are my Facebook friends. And I will be looking for your replies to this post and I can send you an email to your address from your post.

    Thank you!
    @wonderwomandbookish (Instagram) . Diana

  16. No book club for me either. I tried a neighborhood one once back in Minnesota. I found it was too large and some of the women didn't really want discussion. We were supposed to just agree with them. Our branch library has a mystery book club I have thought about trying, but they meet on Saturday afternoons. Too many things going on. My sister belonged to a book club in Salt Lake and enjoyed it. When she moved to LaGrange she tried to start one. It was reasonably small and seemed to have nice people in it. But....two of the members were friends and they decided they would only read books with HEA endings, nothing heavy. So the club died very quickly. I will glance at book club questions after I've read a book, but I rarely try to answer them. I usually haven't thought about those topics and would be more interested in what others think before I try to dredge out a thought myself. I did try an online book club once. I read a classic, The Scarlet Pimpernel. My gosh. I'd forgotten how purple-prosey that is! Anyway I wasn't too impressed with the online discussion. I don't remember how active the moderator was, but the amount of discussion seemed pretty thin.That was a first effort thought. Maybe they've worked out the kinks.

  17. While in the past I've scoffed at the idea of being in any kind of book club, I ended up joining the Wareham Free Library's Mystery Book Club when it was launched by the library director. It's been fun to pick a book and then read it (even when it is one that I've already read) and hear what others have to say about it.

    This most recent book we picked was Vicki Delany's ELEMENTARY, SHE READ and while I'd already read it, I did get to say my peace about how much and why I loved it. What made the discussion interesting was another member who really, well, kind of hated the book. She printed out a list of what she didn't like. When the others asked me what I thought of what the woman had to say, my response was that everything that made her dislike the book and the main character is what made me love it. So it made for an interesting discussion that night.

    I've actually really come to enjoy AND look forward to each new meeting. I've been lucky enough to get Ingrid Thoft to Skype into a meeting when we read her book LOYALTY and Edith Maxwell came to the meeting when we read and discussed DELIVERING THE TRUTH, the first book in the Quaker Midwife Mysteries series.

    I've been pushing to grow the membership of the group, which thus far I haven't been all that successful but I keep trying because I think if the membership grows the better the chance we might be able to get some of the local (relatively speaking) authors to come down to our little library if/when we choose a book of theirs to read.

    By the way, this is a very timely post because in a few months Hallie is coming to the library as the guest for their annual fundraiser so the two fiction book clubs the library puts on will be reading one of her books to coincide with her appearance. I guess now I know to push for CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

    1. And I had a delightful time, Jay. It's a good group!

  18. Quick Question for All Jungle Reds:

    Would you be interested in an online discussion of your book on Instagram or Facebook?

  19. I don't belong to a physical book club, but I do belong to a virtual one, The Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club on Goodreads. I've led a discussion before, but this year I've agreed to come on board as a regular discussion leader, probably starting with just a couple of ones and seeing how that goes. We are in the process of getting a book list set for the year, so the questions you Reds have provided here could be helpful for me or the group, whether or not we're reading your book, and, since several are in consideration from these, I'm hoping I get to lead a discussion on one of yours. Another source of questions for reading groups is Reading Group Guides at As of this date, the site has 4,513 guides available. For each book at Reading Group Guides there are sections for About the Book, Discussion Questions, Reading Guide, and Features. There is also author information in the form of Biography, Bibliography, Web site, and Twitter.

    Thanks for the great questions for your books, Reds. I'm reading over them to relive my experiences in reading the books.

    1. how does the laurie r. king virtual book club on goodreads work?

  20. Excellent post! As a librarian who facilitates discussions I appreciate the questions listed here as a help for the future. I've been campaigning for a mystery discussion series at my library, hopefully someday...