Category Archives: Book Thoughts
While the Courtland family is on vacation in Colorado with their two teenage children, their daughter Cailtin is abducted while out for a morning run. What follows is a three-year nightmare while the already struggling family tries to move on. With no answers to what happened to Caitlin or even if she is dead or alive, each remaining member of the Courtland family battles this crushing weight in different ways.
Grant, the father remains in Colorado unable to leave the are his daughter disappeared from. He stays at a ranch helping out an elderly man, making attempts to move forward but nothing happens.
Angela, the mother, has returned to their home state of Wisconsin but deals with great depression. She lives with her sister after having had to sell their family home and has a hard time functioning from day-to-day.
Sean, the brother, now 18, the age his sister was when she was taken struggles with the guilt of having been with Caitlin when she was taken. What could he have done differently?
And Caitlin. Will they ever find her? And if they do, what exactly will they find?
I reviewed Descent by Tim Johnston last week with my opinion. This review is the thoughts of our book club as a whole and no spoilers :)
Descent brought out a lot of good discussion among our group. While some of us really found the storyline realistic and engaging, others pointed out things that did not seem to fit. There were questions of characters who suddenly did something completely out of their character which we all agreed did not fit, but some would argue that some things do not need to be revealed to the reader. Perhaps the author was giving the reader the feeling of “no control” and that not knowing what would happen could very well, as some argued, give the book a feel more real to life. After all… life is messy and try as we may to figure out how things are going to go… we never do really know.
It was mentioned that the book synopsis that we read from the book when we chose it was not an accurate synopsis, of what actually happens in the book. Some felt mislead to be told one thing and then read another.
Over all, on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, the ratings went from 2,s to 4,s and quite a few rating it in the 3’s (a standard read). It was one of those books that bring out a lot of thoughts, opinions, and discussion. We even reenacted a final scene (I can’t share… that would be a spoiler) when we questioned how one would do that. One girl in our group even had a similar story to share of something that happened to a friend of her sons while hiking. There is actually a book written about that true story, Bringing Jon Home by David Francis. A book that I ordered on Kindle this morning.
Why Would This Make A Good Book Club Read
Descent is a book that could have been ripped from the headlines. This leads to discussion like, “what would you do?” as well as discussion on how a strong family can be shattered by such an experience and a damaged family (such as the Courtland’s) have a good chance of falling completely apart.
If you look at reviews of this book on-line from some of the big name newspapers, New York Times, The Herald, etc… you will find diverse opinions, much like you can expect from a group read. The writing style can be thought of as brilliant, or annoying. (And in our group it was just that)
In the book, Sean is believed to be false when he is telling the truth. Discussion can be made over when that has happened in your lives, when you are telling the truth about something and you are either misunderstood, or believed to be false and the frustration of when your character is questioned like that.
Themes of hope, faith, depression, denial, and survival instinct are all represented within this read.
Food ideas… while not a lot of food is mentioned within the book, there is pizza at a birthday celebration, and Caitlin keeps snickers in her pockets when she runs for energy boosts.
Earlier this week I read a post at I’m Lost In Books and enjoyed a post about being a multi book reader. I could relate to her reading style, as I am also a multi book reader. I enjoyed the picture she had on her post too:
How cool is that?
Looking at this list I am pretty much everything listed on the left side.
Polygamist Reader: I do usually have at least two books going at the same time and 2 to 3 audio books. I pick up the book I am in the mood for, and often if one takes off, the other will be put aside until I finish the one. Audio is for convenience and I have one in the car, one in the house and one on my phone. I usually listen to a little of each of these every day.
Extrovert Reader: I do like trying new genres, beautiful books call to me.
Altruist Reader: Oh yeah. If I like it, you know it. I gush about it here, I tell my friends, groups I am involved in, and our library. I have several friends who call me for book recommendations and I am happy to oblige.
So how about you? Do one or more of these styles refer to the way you like to read? Do you see any pro’s or con’s to your style?
Recently a friend of mine asked me for good book suggestions for her to recommend to her book club. I rattled off a few I had really enjoyed recently including Silent Sister and The Midwife’s Confession, both by Diane Chamberlain. Later, my friend sent me a message saying they were going with Silent Sister, but she was curious about the author writing both of the books about suicide and if that was her niche. I hadn’t really thought about that when I suggested the books and as I replied I thought about my current books I had going.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand is a book about a teenager committing suicide. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (listening to currently in my car), is about two teens who develop a friendship over their suicide attempt. I did not pick up on this theme until my friend pointed it out to me and I did not want to tell her what had just dawned on me, “apparently I am drawn to books about suicide.”
As I processed that thought, curious as to why these books may catch my attention I think I have some ideas:
1. A suicide – or untimely death of any reason, can make for good (I know the word “good” sounds terrible here) book footage. There are many ways you go with this… a false suicide (person actually still lives as it is a coverup), a murder disguised as suicide and then who did it, a true suicide where those left behind have much to sort out.
2. Puzzle solving. I like puzzles and things I have to figure out. A death synopsis opens that up for me.
3. Emotions. I do not search for book after book that will rip me up, however a book that can bring out any kind of strong emotion – fear, sorrow, love, hate… is usually a well written book.
4. Creepy curious desire of the unknown. In a suicidal book there is much to interpret. You are opening yourself up to a loss for all those involved.
Of course, my book reading does not consist of death alone (thank goodness!). I am also drawn to well developed dystopian reads, books centered around women’s friendships, food memoirs, and I hate to admit it… books about school shootings. Of course, we read all the time out of our “book crack” genres, and enjoy many other topics as well – but there are those certain topics that draw us back again and again to our
dealer. I mean… book dealer. I mean book seller.
So I am curious. What is it that draws us to the books that we read a little about or hear a little about and suddenly we MUST HAVE THAT BOOK! It has happened to us all so don’t deny it. :) When a book appeals to us to the point that we order it right away, what happened? I am willing to bet it is not because we had nothing else to read.
What topics in books are like book crack to you? Which books can you not resist?
Book reviewers, bloggers… this one is for
you us. This is something that has amazed me for years. All the wonderful review requests we receive by email (is it not a book lovers dream?). Yet – what emails sent for a potential review request really make it past the 10 to 30 seconds you give to them? I honestly feel bad but more than not – many hit the delete pile, and it may not even be because the book is not one I would read… in most cases it is that the pitch did not catch my attention in the amount of time I have for it. (Yes that is a huge run on sentence but who has time for periods? ;) )
I hope not. I used to email back each person or company that sent me a review request to let them know if I was unable to accept at this time. Most times I would also let them know why… if it wasn’t a book I think I would enjoy, or if time limitations just did not allow me to agree to another book. I liked doing that… but now I just do not have the time to respond to each email.
Here is the honest truth and I have to believe I am not the only one. Time is precious. I have my personal email where I receive job requests for my writing as well as personal communications. I have a second email that is for Friends of the Library, and a third email for bookish stuff (where I direct all book related emails to go to). Being a busy active person with a life, I try to give each of these emails a look each day, but I do not have time to spend hours reading and responding to emails.
So…. the point of this post was to share what does sell me on looking further into a review request… and what does not. Let’s start with the “does not” first…
What Does Not Work In a Review Request
- The introduction. Dear sir or madam may pass if the rest of the email is good – but honestly – it is not 1902. If you are trying to catch my attention use my name, or just say hi or hello reviewer.
- If you are going to use my name, make sure it is my name. I am not delusional… I do not think that I am the only person that you sent this email to and you covet my review thoughts and only my review thoughts. :) However it starts the email off on a bad foot if you call me Jerry or Julie. Or really… any name that is not my own.
- LONG over informative emails with no pictures. Chances are if I do not already work with your publishing company or with you, I am not going to invest time in a too wordy email about a book. Keep it short and sweet. Engage me in why I want to read this book.
- No book cover. This is not always a big deal, but again, if you are a new to me publishing house, or author promoting your book… I like to see the cover. Honestly – I always like to see the cover. That is just me. Even with the companies I do work with I will look up the book if a cover is not in the email… that’s just me. I dont know why but I like to connect the cover to the story line. Covers for me are a plus.
- Pitching a book to me that if you read my blog or even glanced at my review policy you would know the book wasn’t for me. Please do not tell me in one sentence that you enjoy my blog and in the next sentence pitch to me a romantic erotic western (*for the record – three types of books I clearly state I do not read… romances, westerns, or erotica). LOL. Ok that example is extreme… but it has come close to happening. :)
- Not being clear on what you are offering (ie. book copy, Netgalley, …) I have at times said yes to a review and then received a PDF to read it on my computer. I dont read books on my computer.
What Does Work In a Review Request
- Call me Sheila. Or even say “Hey bloggers” or “Hey book reviewers” or even “Dear Reviewer”. I am not picky, just start your email out right with a greeting. I dont mind being grouped in an email that I know has went out to many. We are all friend here. :)
- Tell me in a short synopsis about the book or books you are pitching. If you are excited about a particular book, or know it is is being considered for a movie, or even that you expect big things out of the book.. tell me. That’s interesting stuff.
- Show me the book cover! I love seeing covers. If I read a synopsis of a book I am interested in – I still want to see the cover.
- If you are pitching several books, I dont even need the cover if there is a link where I can look at the book and see more about it.
- Clear instructions of what you are offering (ie. a book for review, Netgalley, PDF) is awesome as well as how to respond to you.
That’s about it. I ♥love♥ receiving review requests and I wish I had the time to read and consider them all but as those of us who write review know – we cant say yes to them all which makes the email pitch all the more important.
I am curious, do the things I mention here in review requests cause you to consider or not consider a book? Do you have a criteria that you like to see in a review pitch? If so, please put in the comments your thoughts on book pitches.
** Warning this post will contain potential spoilers to both Gone Girl and Girl On The Train
Recently I finished the book, Girl On The Train. If you have been on the blogesphere lately you may have noticed this book. It is… EVERYWHERE. An EVERYWHERE book does not necessarily constitute a need for me to read it – however, my interest was piqued. Having seen it was being compared to Gone Girl increased that interest.
Now, having read both books, I have thoughts on why Amy from Gone Girl makes for an excellent protagonist and why Rachel from Girl On The Train does not. (Yes I know I am poking the bear)
Amy Dunne is brilliant. Scary brilliant. She can be the “everything woman”. When she meets Nick she is exactly who he wants her to be. She is sweet, beautiful, vulnerable. She makes Nick feel like a man and he falls in love with her. BUT (and it is a big but.. we are talking baby got back but!) we all know that Amy is flawed… more dangerously than Rachel because Amy can cover her flaws well. It is not until later in the book that we discover how flawed Amy really is…. twisted and damaged to the core she still ends up on top even in the end. Those who know her true colors are few and too afraid of her to do anything about it.
Rachel comes with a lot of baggage. Most prominent is her trouble with alcohol. Her inability to stop drinking puts her immediately at a disadvantage. She is a burden on those around her. She can not hold down a job. As a witness, because of her drinking she is unreliable. Those who try to like her find her to be too much work and they quickly move on. Rachel has dug herself into a deep hole. In the end, she pulls herself together and is working towards being a person who will probably trump Amy in genuine niceness and togetherness.. but for me, it was too little too late.
Unreliable narration is the hook to both of these books. Can we trust what the narrator is telling us? Narration to narration I still give Gone Girl the win as when the book turned and twisted to what was really going on I was BLOWN AWAY. When Girl On The Train twisted I was surprised, but not over the top. I think by that time I had spent so much time struggling with Rachel that I was not engaged enough to appreciate what was indeed, an excellent twist of events.
Disclaimer: This post is all in fun. Based on my thoughts, solely my opinion, on both books and their protagonists. I actually enjoyed reading both books, just had a protagonist issue with Girl On The Train (my issue.). Let’s discuss! Did you like one protagonist over the other? Is it even about the protagonist or is more about the narration that makes the books? Do you agree or disagree with what I have said here? Is it even a fair fight?
I am home. Wiped out. Tired. Lots to do. Home.
Friday I drove with my friend Amy to a hotel in the cities to meet up with Jennifer and Jody, the other two girls that we were doing the mud run in Wisconsin with on Saturday morning. It was a lot of fun and I will have pics up later of the mud run – we use old school disposable camera’s because.. well it’s mud. And lots of water we jump in, swim in… and well, more mud.
Then… after the Mud Run we drove to Shakopee Minnesota to drop Amy off with friends for Canterbury Downs (horse races!) and I hurried home to shower, change, pack, and head to Crosslake Minnesota for day two of the Camp Benedict AIDS bike ride. I did not ride as I had missed day one and did not want to have my car and bike and have to figure out how to get the car back home, 40 miles away. I did go to cheer on the riders and spend time with friends. I was tired but it was good to catch up with everyone and I seen them off this morning as they started their ride.
So now I am home and need to get in my office and get some work done. I have work to do on the book and I need as much time as possible in the office this week to make the deadline coming up. Here are the books that came in the house the past two weeks:
I was out of town last weekend so did not put a post up – but lots of goodies have come in the door!
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom (audio)
JERK by Johnathon Friesen – purchased
MAYDAY by Johnathon Friesen – purchased
Aquifer by Johnathon Freisen – purchased
A full house here but books make me smile :) Hope the rest of your Sunday is wonderful!
Recently I was at our cabin on the North Shore, right off Lake Superior. It is a 3 1/2 hours from our home… a jaunt by any account but one that is worth it. Once there – I am out of internet and cell phone range. It usually winds up being quite the reading time.
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf was one of the books I enjoy during this last trip. I have read Heather before and enjoyed her writing very much. This latest book, makes for GOOD Summer Reading! I picked the book up in the sunny afternoon and I did not stop until I closed the last page that evening.
About Little Mercies
In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…
Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.
A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.
I have an opportunity working with Harlequin, to offer to one commenter a chance to win a Little Mercies Bundle (*SQUUUEEEEE!*) The bundle includes: Little Mercies, The Weight Of Silence, and These Things Hidden. Leave a comment here on what you like to get out of your Summer Reading (thrillers, fantasy, beach reads, lite lit…)
· Visit Little Mercies page on Goodreads
Post 3000!!! Giveaway and Book Discussion – Does An Online Book Presence Replace Face to Face Book Discussions?
Well holy smokes! This is my 3,000 post. Is that not just crazy? Certainly a monumental post like this can not go by without some sort of hoopla…. you know how I like to celebrate! :)
This post actually falls into a spot I was planning to chat about on-line book relationships vs. face to face (ie. Book Clubs. reading groups, book studies…) and I am going to go ahead with it as I think it is a very worthy discussion for our friend, “Post 3000″.
Credit for the idea behind this post goes to Rita of My Home Of Books. She recently wrote a post about book clubs and within her post she asked the question
If you have a solid on line presence with a large network surrounding your book related topics, do you find it necessary to also be in a book club?
This is the question that started me thinking, as I love my online discussions about books but I also love love my face to face book club and I personally would not want to give either up. Them’s fightin’ words.
But… that’s me.
What started me thinking was if an online presence around books can replace that face to face feeling. I personally would hope that it would not need to, but as I have heard from many of you through the years, finding a face to face book group is not always easy to do.
If you are reading book blogs and reading books suggested, or have already read a book that is being discussed, do you then join in the discussion?
I think if you are participating in active commenting on bookish topics you are simulating a “book discussion” and if that is all that is available to you for numerous reasons –
- no book clubs available
- inability to join a group do to work, kids, family, commitments
- existing book club/group never seems to discuss the book
Then certainly – get your book on that way and YAY that you do! There are a smorgasbord of book sites out there for everyone’s tastes and many times you can find your favorite publishing houses on Twitter and FACEBOOK (by all means Friend them – they have great conversations and many times they have giveaways too!)
However…. (and this is where the discussion could get interesting ;) ) I personally feel that face to face book relationships can stimulate a deeper connection to people and to books. Let me explain:
While it can certainly be AWESOME to discuss a book on-line either gush worthy or “hated it!” It is hard to get the real emotion that went into the read to come out in an online discussion. Sure, I can say a book made me cry – but how does that replace sitting in a room together and hearing my voice crack when I say ” __________________’s break up with __________________ made my sob as though it was happening to me.”
Also, on-line it is hard to keep the conversation flowing at a rate that is satisfying to either party. Sure I (or anyone) can write a review and you can comment. Then at some point later I many read your comment and respond, and sometime later yet you may (or maybe you don’t) come back, see my response and then you comment again. It’s a bumpy conversation.
Obviously I love on-line book conversations or this post 3,000 (echo when you say it – its cool….. 3,000, 3,000, 3,000…) would not be happening. And I love visiting other blogger book sites and chatting books with them too. I also love face to face book encounters and would like to give suggestions of how you can make that happen or find a fit that works for you:
The one I love the most is join a book club. If you do not know of any, check your local library. They may either know book clubs in the area, or they may be offering them at the library (ours offers children, middle grade, family and adult book clubs). *In the event that you can not find a book club and your library does not know of any groups… start one.
Look for local author events (check book stores, library, newspaper, look on-line). Listening to an author can be a wonderful experience. I love to get to know the person behind the book. Grab a friend… go go go!!!
If there is a great read out and you and a couple of people you know have read it, invite them over to discuss it over drinks on the deck, or meet up at a coffee shop or restaurant. It does not have to be a “book club”, but even taking time to talk with others about a book you enjoyed is stimulating conversation.
Please – I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Do you think that on-line book relationships can replace face to face ones?
Do you feel some can effectively do it all – discuss on-line books topics well and face to face encounters too? Should they?
Do you have other suggestions for finding face to face book discussions for people looking?
Is this just a crazy discussion and post #3,000 is a weak attempt to engage people in book chats? ;)
Please share your thoughts – I did mention a giveaway – Leave a relevant comment here on this post between now and Thursday June 26th and I will enter you into a giveaway for a $10 Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift card – winners choice. One entry per comment. If you “Tweet” about this giveaway and post and put the tweet link in a comment space I will give you two additional entries.
(just click the “Tweet” button at the bottom of the post.)
Today I was at an author event where the author was discussing his book covers. He actually had some fascinating thoughts on them (more on that in tomorrow’s post) but one thing he mentioned stood out to me. He has a cover with a little girl on a tricycle peddling away so you do not see her face, he said he had her riding away as when you see the face on a cover it gives you an image of what the character looks like and he feels that should be part of the reading experience; to create the character in your mind.
Part of the reading experience should be to create the character in your mind.
Ooh…. I like that.
I have always had a sort of dislike for covers that have a picture of the characters on them. Why? Because that image is now in my head as I read the book. The girl (or boy) on the cover is now who is running through the pages which is fine if it is a move cover as we already have the character defined for us by the big box… but not for the original pre-movie (or no-movie) book.
Ok so above – is my example. To the left, is the book I mentioned from the author today. It is an engaging cover and I like it… I want to know where she is going, or where she has went, or who has taken her…. the only thing that would bother me here is if the girl in the book has long flowing BLOND hair, or if her hair is short, unlike the cover. To the right, is Vampire Academy. Nothing against the book… but this girl on the cover makes me think of an older girl than the protagonist in the book.
There have been books I have read that the character inside the book is NOTHING like the cover picture and I can not even tell you how bat sh** crazy that makes me. I seriously flip from the cover to the page I am reading to the cover again… if the girl (or boy) on the cover is not the one described in the book, then who is she or he?
There is one instance that comes to mind from a few years back where the cover actually caused an all out battle. Seriously… anyone remember LIAR?
LIAR is the story of Micah who is well… a liar. And I will say she is! Or at least the people who made the cover are, because Micah, is an African-American girl… not at all the one in the cover. There is a HUGE story behind this cover and there was a refusal by bloggers to review the book as they were all so upset that the publishing company went with a white girl on the cover. Seriously…. this is a whole other story so Google it someday, but the ending result of this battle was:
Yup. Seriously amazing… and all of this could have been avoided.
I really prefer non-face covers. Give me a lake setting, a boat, abandoned car, a road, a house, even people way in the background so you can not really make them out… you name it… I can pretty much work with it… all of these lead me into the story…
“Who lives there?”
“Where are they going?”
What is going to happen?
What are your thoughts on book covers? Preferences? Do you mind faces on book covers? How do you feel when the cover does not match the story?
Recently while reading a review, the writer had mentioned a surprising twist towards the end of the read that changed their thoughts on the book. I am certain that in my review of this same book, I too mentioned a twist towards the end that really threw me for a loop. It had been a discussion on Twitter that saying there is a “twist”, is sort of a spoiler to the reader of the review who has not yet read the book.
I am reminded of Season Two Downton Abby. For those who may not know, this is a British tv show on PBS that has caught the attention of many… addicting for sure… and that is not a spoiler… I don’t think. ;) Anyway, a friend of mine who had finished the second season before I had, eluded to a big SHOCK that would be devastating once I knew it. I remember from that point on each episode I watched I was waiting for it…. wondering, is that the big shock? Is that? When will it happen? Who will it involve? It may be safe to say that knowing something big was coming did take a way a bit of the experience as I was waiting for the BIG THING.
I can see how saying there is a shock, or a twist can lead to the reader waiting for that moment to happen – but I think it also builds up the read. When I mention that a book shocked me or a twist really impressed me as I had no clue, to me, that builds value in the read. If a reviewer I enjoy says something like this, it draws me closer to the book… the mention of a surprise makes me want to know… “Wow, what happens?”
So the question before us is… is it? Is it a spoiler to a book if we discuss that there is a twist at the end, or a change that happens that totally changed the way we felt about the book.
Also… how do you define what a SPOILER is? As Grace from Books Without Any Pictures recently (and brilliantly) said in a historical fiction review, “is it a spoiler if it actually happened?”