The Charm Bracelet 
Viola Shipman, 2016
St. Martin's Press
336 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781250071330


Summary
Through an heirloom charm bracelet, three women will rediscover the importance of family and a passion for living as each charm changes their lives.

On her birthday each year, Lolly’s mother gave her a charm, along with the advice that there is nothing more important than keeping family memories alive, and so Lolly’s charm bracelet would be a constant reminder of that love.

Now seventy and starting to forget things, Lolly knows time is running out to reconnect with a daughter and granddaughter whose lives have become too busy for Lolly or her family stories.

But when Arden, Lolly’s daughter, receives an unexpected phone call about her mother, she and granddaughter Lauren rush home. Over the course of their visit, Lolly reveals the story behind each charm on her bracelet, and one by one the family stories help Lolly, Arden, and Lauren reconnect in a way that brings each woman closer to finding joy, love, and faith.

A compelling story of three women and a beautiful reminder of the preciousness of family, The Charm Bracelet is a keepsake you’ll cherish long after the final page. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
AKA—Wade Rouse
Birth—1956
Where—Granby, Missouri, USA
Education—B.A., Drury University; M.S., Northwestern University
Currently—lives in the state of Michigan


Viola Shipman is a penname for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders.

Writing as Wade Rouse, he has penned several memoirs, including America's Boy; At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream; Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler; and It's All Relative.

He has written two novels as Viola Shipman, The Hope Chest (2017) and The Charm Bracelet (2016), as well as a novella, Christmas Angels (2016, e-book only).

Wade's work has been selected multiple times as a Must-Read by NBC’s Today Show, featured on Chelsea Lately on E!, and been chosen three times by the nation's independent booksellers as an Indie Next Pick.

Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages. (Adapted from the publisher and the author's website.)



Book Reviews
Readers will be charmed by the characters, most of all by kooky but wise Lolly, who teaches her stressed-out daughter and granddaughter lessons in life and love.
Good Housekeeping


Shipman’s debut novel unites three generations of women as they come together to heal the wounds of their pasts and forge a family.…Shipman compellingly depicts the bonds of family, revealing that the moments of trials and tribulation are part of lives filled with hope and faith.
Publishers Weekly


Shipman's charming story of finding peace in oneself, listening to your heart, and remembering all those who came before you will be welcomed by fans of Cecelia Ahern and Debbie Macomber. —Melissa Keegan, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL
Library Journal


[Shipman] pulls out all the emotional bells and whistles here; book reads like a fictionalized guide to living the good life…designed to warm the heart and fill the tear ducts. Smooth writing, unabashed sentimentality: if it sometimes feels a little forced or relentless, where's the harm?
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The Charm Bracelet was written as a tribute to the author’s grandmothers—whose charm bracelets and lessons inspired the novel — as well as to all of our elders. Do you think we respect our elders—their lives, stories, and sacrifices — as much as we used to in the past? Why or why not? Talk about specific instances in the book where Lauren and Arden honored Lolly. Discuss instances in your life or the lives of others when elders haven’t been shown the respect they deserve.

2. The Charm Bracelet focuses on the lives and relationships of three generations of women in one family. Do you see parallels between Lolly, Arden, and Lauren and your own family? Discuss how the decisions and choices you’ve made — or those made by your mother, grandmother, or daughter — have affected your family, either positively or negatively.

3. Do you have a charm bracelet? Do you collect charms? Do you have charms from your family? Discuss where you got some of them and what they mean to you. Do you collect any other heirloom items? What are they and what stories do they tell/memories do they provide? What other collections do you have from your family (dishes, hope chest, recipes, etc.)? What do they mean to you? Will you pass them on to your daughters or granddaughters? And were any of these traditions that were started by your grandmother or a female family figure?

4. There are many examples of love that Lolly, Arden, and Lauren exemplify in The Charm Bracelet: Familial love, lost love, new love, love of place, love of work, and love of home. Discuss those. What is your greatest “love” and why? Do you have any love regrets?

5. The Charm Bracelet was inspired by the stories — the oral history — of the author’s grandmothers and family. In numerous passages, Lolly tells Arden to put down her phone, or for Lauren to stop texting and call a friend instead. In addition, Arden’s career seems to spotlight our societal thirst for celebrity gossip and instant news. In contrast, Lolly tells stories via the charms of the family’s history, generational tales that would be lost if she didn’t share them. Do you think we are losing our collective family “heirloom” histories (i.e., that of telling family stories, sharing our family heirlooms)? If so, what will be the consequences to future generations? If not, why? And what are you doing to preserve those traditions?

6. If there was one story or lesson from your life that you could share with a younger family member — a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, or a cousin — what would it be? What story or stories do you want to be sure to share and pass along in your life? And with whom?

7. If you had a chance to ask a grandparent or elder something about his or her life, what would it be?

8. Arden desires to be a writer, while Lauren wants to be a painter. Neither are easy, stable career paths. Have you ever given up pursuing a passion because “life” got in the way or because it didn’t seem logical? How did that impact you, and does it still? Do you think most of us are ruled by fear in our lives? Or is that “just life”? Talk about a job that you stayed at — but didn’t like — because you felt you had no other options.

9. The Charm Bracelet seeks to remind readers of what’s truly most important in life in these hectic — often troubling — times: Family, faith, friends, fun, and a passion for life and what you do. Do you think in our busy world today that we have forgotten what’s most important? Why or why not? And how do you and your family try to focus on reminding yourselves of those simple yet grand gifts (i.e., Sunday dinners, no cell phones at dinner, family trips to the same place, etc.)?

10. Has anyone in your family or life been diagnosed with dementia? Discuss how that has impacted them, you, and your life.

11. Do you and your family — and those in your book club — have a special place that you return to every year? Discuss what that place means to you.

12. There is a contrast in The Charm Bracelet that is drawn between life in an urban area and life in a more rural/resort area. What are the pros and cons of both?

13. Lolly, Arden, and Lauren are all strong, independent women and characters. Talk about some of the strong, independent women in your life and what they mean/have meant to you. And discuss how women are portrayed today not only in fiction but also in the media.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Rachel Ignotofsky, 2017
Ten Speed Press
128 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781607749769


Summary
It's a scientific fact: Women rock!

A charmingly illustrated and educational book, New York Times best seller Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world.

Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary.

The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
 
Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!  (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1989-90
Where—the State of New Jersey, USA
Education—Tyler School of Art
Currently—lives in Kansas City, Missouri


Rachel Ignotofsky grew up in New Jersey. In 2011 she graduated with honors from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she went to work as a graphic designer for Hallmark cards, all the while continuing her own freelance work.

In early 2015, one her projects was featured by Instagram in honor of International Women’s Day. Over the course of a few days, the post went viral, jumping from 1,500 to 43,000 viewers, and Rachel decided to quit Hallmark.

That project was "Women In Science,” featuring often unknown women who played important roles in the history of science. Just over a year later, in July of 2016, her project was published in book form—Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. It became a New York Times bestseller.

Inspired by both science and history, Rachel has a passion for using art to make complicated, dense material accessible and engaging. She sees her work as a way to enhance learning and increase scientific literacy—and especially to spread the word that science is an open path for women. (Adapted from the author's website.)



Book Reviews
In this wittily illustrated, accessible volume, Rachel Ignotofsky highlights 50 women who changed the course of science
Wall Street Journal


I applaud Ignotofsky and her publisher for telling these important stories about women through such a rich, visual medium. The world needs more books like this.
Scientific American (online)


With the help of eye-catching artwork, Ignotofsky celebrates not just astronauts, but also the engineers, biologists, mathematicians, and physicists who’ve blazed a trail for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields from the ancient to modern world. The book elevates this information with beautiful and instructive infographics that delve into topics like the number of women currently working in STEM fields.
Entertainment Weekly (online)


With short, inspiring stories and the accessibility of a graphic novel. . .the perfect book to share with the science- and tech-minded people (male and female, young and old) in your life. . . .The must-read, girl-power STEM book.
InStyle.com


[A]n illustrated homage to some of the most influential and inspiring women in STEM.… Ignotofsky captures the heartbreaking inequalities that only amplify the impressiveness of these women’s feats (Greatest Science Books of 2016).
Maria Popova - BrainPickings.org


[A] clever introduction to women scientists through history (Best Science Books of 2016).
Science Friday


True fact: This book is so cool that I had to go steal it back from my fifth grade daughter to review it… this book perfectly balances well-researched facts with gorgeous, whimsical illustrations making it a favorite you just can’t put down.
Cool Mom Picks



Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meanwhile, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Women in Science…then take off on your own:

1. Perhaps the best place to start any discussion for this book is to have each member of your group select a favorite scientist. Talk about her journey, as well as her work and its contribution to the field.

2. Discuss the number of women entering STEM jobs today—compared to men. Why have women historically been underrepresented in the sciences, and to what degree is that changing (you might do some research to gather the latest statistics)? Recall the famous (or infamous) Larry Summers remark in 2005: the then-president of Harvard attempted to explain science's gender gap by pointing to "issues of intrinsic aptitude." What do you think?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: What barriers did the women in Rachel Ignotofsky's book face? To what extent have those barriers changed in the 21st century? What did it take for women in previous eras to succeed in science; what did they give up to follow their passions? What does it take today?

4. Talk about Rachel Ignotofsky's use of art to open up science and make it more exciting. Do you find her book enlightening or inspirational? The book's target is primarily girls; to what extent is it also of value to adults?

5. How much did you know about the accomplishments of women in science before reading Ignotofsky's book? Were you aware, specifically, of any of them? Were some whom you know of left out? What surprised you most? Who surprised you most?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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The Stars Are Fire 
Anita Shreve, 2017
Knopf Doubleday
256 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780385350907


Summary
An exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath--based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history.

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village.

Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters.

Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists.

In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms--joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain--and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens--and Grace's bravery is tested as never before. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1946
Raised—Dedham, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A. Tufts University
Awards—PEN/L.L. Winship Award; O. Henry Prize
Currently—lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts


Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of nearly 20 books—including two works of nonfiction and 17 of fiction. Her novels include, most recently, Stella Bain (2013), as well as The Weight of Water (1997), a finalist for England's Orange prize; The Pilot's Wife (1998), a selection of Oprah's Book Club; All He Even Wanted (2003), Body Surfing (2007); Testimony (2008); A Change in Altitude (2010). She lives in Massachusetts. (From the publisher.)

More

For many readers, the appeal of Anita Shreve’s novels is their ability to combine all of the escapist elements of a good beach read with the kind of thoughtful complexity not generally associated with romantic fiction. Shreve’s books are loaded with enough adultery, eroticism, and passion to make anyone keep flipping the pages, but the writer whom People magazine once dubbed a "master storyteller" is also concerned with the complexities of her characters’ motivations, relationships, and lives.

Shreve’s novels draw on her diverse experiences as a teacher and journalist: she began writing fiction while teaching high school, and was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her story, "Past the Island, Drifting." She then spent several years working as a journalist in Africa, and later returned to the States to raise her children. In the 1980s, she wrote about women’s issues, which resulted in two nonfiction books—Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone—before breaking into mainstream fiction with Eden Close in 1989.

This interest in women’s lives—their struggles and success, families and friendships—informs all of Shreve’s fiction. The combination of her journalist’s eye for detail and her literary ear for the telling turn of phrase mean that Shreve can spin a story that is dense, atmospheric, and believable. Shreve incorporates the pull of the sea—the inexorable tides, the unpredictable surf—into her characters’ lives the way Willa Cather worked the beauty and wildness of the Midwestern plains into her fiction. In Fortune’s Rocks and The Weight of Water, the sea becomes a character itself, evocative and ultimately consuming. In Sea Glass, Shreve takes the metaphor as far as she can, where characters are tested again and again, only to emerge stronger by surviving the ravages of life.

A domestic sensualist, Shreve makes use of the emblems of household life to a high degree, letting a home tell its stories just as much as its inhabitants do, and even recycling the same house through different books and periods of time, giving it a sort of palimpsest effect, in which old stories burn through the newer ones, creating a historical montage. "A house with any kind of age will have dozens of stories to tell," she says. "I suppose if a novelist could live long enough, one could base an entire oeuvre on the lives that weave in and out of an antique house."

Shreve’s work is sometimes categorized as "women’s fiction," because of her focus on women’s sensibilties and plights. But her evocative and precise language and imagery take her beyond category fiction, and moderate the vein of sentimen-tality which threads through her books. Moreover, her kaleidoscopic view of history, her iron grip on the details and detritus of 19th-century life (which she sometimes inter-sperses with a 20th-century story), and her uncanny ability to replicate 19th-century dialogue without sounding fusty or fussy, make for novels that that are always absorbing and often riveting. If she has a flaw, it is that her imagery is sometimes too cinematic, but one can hardly fault her for that: after all, the call of Hollywood is surely as strong as the call of the sea for a writer as talented as Shreve. (Adapted from Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
Characterizations, however, are less convincing; Gene’s cruelty to Grace seems disproportionate to its purported rationale, and the novel’s final pages feel implausible and anachronistic.… [Still,] many readers will…be eager to debate the ethical decisions [Grace] makes
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.)  Based on the harrowing true story of the largest fire to ravage the coast of Maine.… Shreve's prose mirrors the action of the fire, with popping embers of action, licks of blazing rage, and the slow burn of lyrical character development. Absolutely stunning. —Julie Kane, Washingrton & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA
Library Journal


Shreve shakes things up in a way that descends into woman-in-jeopardy territory. The back stories of the main characters are so sketchy that their actions seem unmotivated and arbitrary. Formulaic plot aside, worth reading for the period detail and the evocative prose.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The epigraph is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: "Doubt thou the stars are fire; / Doubt thou the sun doth move; / Doubt truth to be a liar; / But never doubt I love." What does it mean? What does it have to do with the novel it introduces?

2. "Containerize, her own mother once told Grace, as if imparting the secret of sanity. Her mother meant children as well as dry goods." (pages 9–­10) In what ways does Grace follow this advice? When does she disregard it?

3. Grace intends to seduce Gene on page 15, but the results are degrading and painful. If the novel were set in the present, might this be considered marital rape? How are things different now from in the 1940s?

4. On page 22, Grace thinks, "It feels true that she might have wished her mother-­in-­law gone. Not dead, just gone. It feels true that she caused the hurtful night in bed, even though she sort of knows she didn’t." Why does she blame herself for these things? When does she stop blaming herself?

5. Discuss Grace’s relationship with Rosie. Why is this friendship so important to Grace? What function does Rosie serve in her life?

6. Before reading The Stars Are Fire, what did you know about the fires that tore through Maine in 1947?

7. Can you think of anything Grace could have done differently to prepare?

8. After the fire, after losing the baby, Grace believes Gene may have used the chaos as cover for him to leave the family. What makes her think this? Would she rather that he fled, or died fighting the fire?

9. Why do Matthew and Joan take in Grace and the children? How does their action help her to heal?

10. At various points in the novel, Grace either ignores or heeds her intuition—­for instance, when Claire has a fever, or when Grace lets Aidan stay in the house. How does she decide when to follow her gut, and when to disregard it? Does her faith in her intuition grow over the course of the novel?

11. What do you think would have happened to Grace and the children if Marjorie hadn’t found them?

12. When does Grace begin to believe in her ability to survive and even thrive on her own? Is it purely a matter of necessity?

13. How does the notion of a "diaspora" figure into the story?

14. Which does more to pull Grace toward Aidan, their conversations or his music?

15. Why do you think Merle hid her jewelry where she did? What would have happened to Grace and the children if Grace hadn’t found it?

16. What prompts Grace to lie to her mother about Dr. Lighthart and about the money?

17. When Gene reappears, Grace thinks, "She will live in this house with this injured man on the couch until one of them dies. She will never again go to a job. She will never make love again. She will not have friends." (page 175) What prompts her to find a way to escape this fate?

18. Are there any ways in which Gene’s rage about his situation is justified?

19. On page 195, Gene says, " ‘Goddamnit, Grace. What’s got into you?’ " She replies, " ‘What’s gone out of me is a better question." What does she mean?

20. In her goodbye letter to Gene, Grace writes, "I think that if the fire hadn’t happened, we’d have continued as the little family that we were. In time, I believe, we would have come to care about each other in a way that was companionable." (page 221) Without the upheaval of the fire, do you think Grace would have stayed in her marriage?

21. When Grace decided to drive north, where did you think she was going? Did the epilogue surprise you?

22. The novel ends on a serendipitous note. Did you find it satisfying?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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The Shadow Land 
Elizabeth Kostova, 2017
Random  House
496 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780345527868


Summary
From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes a mesmerizing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the troubled history of a gorgeous but haunted country.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother.

Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov.

Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio

Birth—December 26, 1964
Where—New London, Connecticut, USA
Rasied—Knoxville, Tennessee
Education—B.A., Yale; M.F.A. University of Michigan
Awards—Hopwod Award for Novel-in-Progress; Quill Award; Book Sense Award
Currently—lives in Michigan, USA


Elizabeth Johnson Kostova, an American author, is best known for her debut novel The Historian. Swan Thieves, her second novel, was released in 2010.

Kostova's interest in the Dracula legend began with the stories her father told her about the vampire when she was a child. The family lived in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1972, while her father was teaching at a local university; during that year, the family traveled across Europe. According to Kostova, "It was the formative experience of my childhood."She "was fascinated by [her father's Dracula stories] because they were...from history in a way, even though they weren't about real history, but I heard them in these beautiful historic places." Kostova's interest in books and libraries began early as well. Her mother, a librarian, frequently took her and her sisters to the public library — they were each allowed to check out 30 books and had a special shelf for their library books.

As a child, she listened to recordings of Balkan folk music and became interested in the tradition. As an undergraduate at Yale, she sang in and directed a Slavic chorus. In 1989, she and some friends traveled to Eastern Europe, specifically Bulgaria and Bosnia, to study local musical customs. The recordings they made will be deposited in the Library of Congress. While Kostova was in Europe, the Berlin Wall collapsed, heralding the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, events which shaped her understanding of history.

Five years later, in 1994, when Kostova was hiking in the Appalachian Mountains with her husband, she had a flashback to those storytelling moments with her father and asked herself "what if the father were spinning his Dracula tales to his entranced daughter and Dracula was listening in? What if Dracula was still alive?" She immediately scratched out seven pages of notes into her writer's notebook. Two days later, she started work on the novel. At the time she was teaching English as a second language, creative writing, and composition classes at universities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and finished the book as she was obtaining her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Michigan. In order to write the book, she did extensive research about Eastern Europe and Vlad Tepes.

Kostova finished the novel in January 2004 and sent it out to a potential literary agent in March. Two months later and within two days of sending out her manuscript to publishers, Kostova was offered a deal—she refused it. The rights to the book were then auctioned off and Little, Brown and Company bought it for US$2 million (US$30,000 is typical for a first novel from an unknown author). Publishers Weekly explained the high price as a bidding war between firms believing that they might have the next Da Vinci Code within their grasp. One vice-president and associate publisher said "Given the success of The Da Vinci Code, everybody around town knows how popular the combination of thriller and history can be and what a phenomenon it can become." Little, Brown, and Co. subsequently sold the rights in 28 countries. The book was published in the United States on 14 June 2005.

More
The novel blends the history and folklore of Vlad Tepes and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula and has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. Kostova was intent on writing a serious work of literature and saw herself as an inheritor of the Victorian style. Although based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Historian is not a horror novel, but rather an eerie tale. The novel is concerned with questions about history, its role in society, and how it is represented in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, "Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history." The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East.

Heavily promoted, the book became the first debut novel to land at number one on the the New York Times bestseller list and as of 2005 was the fastest-selling hardback debut novel in US history. In general, the reviews of the novel were mixed. Several reviewers noted that she described the setting of her novel well. However, some reviewers criticized the book's structure and its lack of tonal variety. Kostova received the 2006 Book Sense award for Best Adult Fiction and the 2005 Quill Award for Debut Author of the Year. Sony bought the film rights to the novel for $1.5 million.

In May 2007, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation was created. The Foundation helps support Bulgarian creative writing, the translation of contemporary Bulgarian literature into English, and friendship between Bulgarian authors and American and British authors.

Kostova's second novel, The Swan Thieves, was released in 2010, and The Shadow Land in 2017. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
A compelling and complex mystery, strong storytelling, and lyrical writing combine for an engrossing read.… Lazarov’s… attempt to become a concertmaster… has tragic consequences, setting up Kostova’s most emotional and harrowing moments.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) This…will delight the author's fans. A slight hint of the mystical will appeal to readers who enjoyed Deborah Harkness's "All Souls" trilogy, while the mystery and thriller aspects will keep fans… reading. A fantastic book club pick. —Elizabeth McArthur, Bexar Cty. Digital Lib., BiblioTech, San Antonio
Library Journal


Interweaving tales juxtapose the past with the present as the mystery unfolds. Verdict: Those who enjoy a deep dive into the complicated lives of people both historical and contemporary will love this book. —Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
School Library Journal


[T]he romance Kostova drums up for Alexandra …feel[s] shoehorned into the novel…. Kostova's passion and tragic sense of history, along with jewellike character studies, almost make up for the overplotting and repetitiveness as she drums her points home.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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Never Let You Go 
Chevy Stevens, 2017
St. Martin's Press
416 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781250034564


Summary
Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life.

Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her.

But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed.

Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

With Never Let You Go, Chevy Stevens delivers a chilling, twisting thriller that crackles with suspense as it explores the darkest heart of love and obsession. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1973
Where—Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Education—N/A
Awards—International Thriller Writers Award
Currently—lives on Vancouver Island, B.E.


Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. At open houses, waiting between potential buyers, she spent hours scaring herself with thoughts of horrible things that could happen to her. Her most terrifying scenario, which began with being abducted, was the inspiration for Still Missing. After six months Chevy sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s hiking with her husband and dog in the local mountains. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
(Starred review.) [A] superlative psychological thriller.… Stevens’s taut writing and chilling depiction of love twisted beyond recognition make this a compelling read from the first page to the last.
Publishers Weekly


The story is told in the alternating voices of Lindsey and Sophie, allowing readers to understand both characters.… Disturbing, suspenseful, and just a little nerve-wracking…[a] fast-paced psychological thriller —Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY
Library Journal


The gripping, often terrifying story follows Lindsey as she endures the roller coaster that is survival and in the end finds an outcome that she never expected.… Stevens’ portrayal is spot-on.
Booklist


Stevens' tale isn't linear, instead shifting back and forth across 20 years, sometimes a chronicle of misdirection, more often a dissection of obsession and revenge, fear and terror.… [A] fast-paced thriller with a surprise twist.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher. In the meantime, use our generic mystery questions.)



GENERIC DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Mystery / Crime / Suspense Thrillers

1. Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues in plain sight, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead readers astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

  1. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
  2. Are they plausible or implausible?
  3. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

  1. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
  2. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
  3. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
  4. Perhaps it's too predictable.
  5. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Are there certain passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing...or that somehow struck you? What lines, if any, made you stop and think?

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Why or why not?

(Generic Mystery Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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