Small Acts of Christmas Kindness

The 13th GiftAs our regular readers know, each month we offer discussion questions or author interviews about Bas Bleu’s Book a Month titles, to enrich the reading experience for individuals or book clubs. But for our December 2015 Book a Month feature, we’ve opted to do something a little different, inspired by the spirit of goodwill and friendship at the heart of this month’s selection, The Thirteenth Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle.

In the autumn of 1999, journalist Joanne Huist Smith’s husband, Rick, died suddenly, leaving his wife and three children grief-stricken and utterly devoid of Christmas spirit. Joanne remembers:

I absolutely understood Scrooge now. I want to go to bed tonight and wake up on December 26. No shopping. No baking. No tree with lights. I’m not in a mood to make memories. The ones I have just hurt; I can’t imagine new ones will feel any better.

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November 2015 Book a Month: Land of a Thousand Hills

Land of a Thousand HillsAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

We first encountered this month’s selection, Land of a Thousand Hills, in 2014, when co-author Ann Howard Halsey’s sister-in-law sent us a review copy. Our catalog manager needed only a few pages to become hooked by the incredible true story of Rosamond Halsey Carr, a fashion illustrator who moved to Africa in 1949 as a newlywed. Ultimately, Rosamond’s love for Rwanda would outlast her marriage, and she lived in Africa until her death in 2006. She was able to share her inspiring life with readers, thanks to the dedication of her niece Ann. Recently we chatted with Ann about her extraordinary relative and the living legacy of Roz’s humanitarian work in Rwanda. Continue reading

October 2015 Book a Month: Neverhome

NeverhomeAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Our October Book a Month selection, Laird Hunt’s novel Neverhome, is the second Civil War book featured in our 2015 series. (Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy back in March was the first.) But while Abbott’s nonfiction tome told the little-known histories of several extraordinary wartime women, Hunt’s slim yet devastating novel focuses on the intricately beautiful personal narrative of an Indiana farm wife whowith her husband’s blessing—disguises herself as a man to fight for the Union. Our reviewer called it “a poignant—and at times harrowing—tale woven from gorgeously evocative prose.” Months later, Neverhome continues to resonate as a must-read novel and a rich conversation topic for book clubs of all sizes. Continue reading

September 2015 Book a Month: Crossing the Borders of Time

Crossing the Border of TimeAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

It’s probably safe to say that few, if any, of us know what it’s like to be forced to abandon the people and homeland we love to save our own lives. Yet during World War II, countless people did just that, many of them Jews persecuted during the Nazis’ Third Reich. In this month’s Book a Month selection, Crossing the Borders of Time, an American journalist delves deep into her family’s past to investigate her Jewish mother’s wartime experiences, particularly her star-crossed relationship with a young Catholic man. (You may also enjoy this 2012 interview with Maitland from PBS’s News Hour, but beware spoilers!) Continue reading

August 2015 Book a Month: The Family Fortune

The Family FortuneAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen never goes out of style. Thankfully, corsets and dowries are passé, but Austen’s keen eye for social absurdity, the complicated relationships between the sexes, and hearty appreciation for a good joke is timeless. In this month’s Book a Month selection, The Family Fortune, novelist Laurie Horowitz restages Persuasion in post-9/11 Boston, where a bookish young woman (aptly named Jane) struggles to find her path in the wake of regret. Continue reading

July 2015 Book a Month: Bobcat and Other Stories

BobcatAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Short-story collections offer a unique reading experience: short-form writings created to stand alone yet presented as a single cohesive work. This month’s Book a Month selection, Bobcat: And Other Stories, made a deep impression on our editors and readers around the country. In these seven stories, “fascinating intellectual men and women navigate the dazzlingly complicated muddle of life, finding both beauty and heartbreak.” This week, Bobcat author Rebecca Lee took time out of her busy writing and teaching schedule to chat with us about her work, her writing process, and the books that have influenced her. Continue reading

June 2015 Book a Month: The Coroner’s Lunch

The Coroner's LunchAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Our customers lead us to some great reads! June’s selection, The Coroner’s Lunch, came to our attention via a Reader Review from Jean Albright of Indianapolis, Indiana. (Interested in submitting your own review? Scroll down for more info!) We’re grateful to Ms. Albright for introducing us to the delightfully cantankerous coroner-sleuth Dr. Siri. We hope you enjoyed the debut of this unconventional mystery series as much as we did! Continue reading

May 2015 Book a Month: More Home Cooking

More Home CookingAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

During her all-too-brief lifetime, Laurie Colwin penned five novels and three short-story collections, yet it is her food writing—many of the essays originally published in Gourmet magazine—that continues to burnish Colwin’s literary legacy two decades after her death. Continue reading

April 2015 Book a Month: And Only to Deceive

And Only to DeceiveAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Emily, the heroine of April’s Book a Month selection, And Only to Deceive, is a girl after our own hearts: She uses the Victorian period of obligatory mourning for her dead husband (she hardly knew him!) as the perfect excuse to stay home and read. But waiting until after your husband is dead to really get to know him is tricky stuff, as Emily soon finds out when surprising truths about Philip, the late Viscount Ashton, begin coming to light in this mystery. Continue reading

March 2015 Book a Month: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Liar Temptress Soldier SpyAs part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” In this month’s Book a Month selection—Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War—author Karen Abbott guides readers through a pivotal period of American history, chronicling the lives of four inimitable women whose extraordinary choices helped to shape our nation’s bloodiest conflict. This week, Karen stopped by Bas Bleu’s Bluestocking Salon to talk about her proclivity for writing about rule-breaking women, paying homage to “soldiers” who fought in the shadows, and even to offer us a few book suggestions. Continue reading