The Island of Sea Women: A Review

May 27, 2019

Have you experienced a patriarchal or matriarchal culture?

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Island of Sea Women Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, South Korea, Women’s Roles

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

You may have read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, or Shanghai Girls by popular author Lisa See. In The Island of Sea Women, See imagines the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook. As the story begins, we are introduced to these two young girls living on the Korean Island of Jeju. Although the girls are best friends, they come from very different backgrounds. As the girls mature, they begin working in the sea with other women in the village as part of the diving collective (the haenyo). Even though diving is dangerous, the girls are eager to be allowed to join the women of the sea as they learn the trade and follow in the tradition of the other women in the village who are the sole providers for their families. In this matriarchal culture, the men stay home, cook, and assume primary care for the children. Women take on the responsibility for providing an income from selling the bounty of their diving expeditions. It’s women who worry about the livelihood of their families and village, assume great physical risks, and take responsibility for knowing the best locations and times/conditions to dive. The  sea women dive when they are pregnant and sometimes give birth on the boat as part of their workday if necessary. The story begins in the 1930s and continues through WW11, the Korean War, and the modern technology boom. Over the decades, circumstances put the girls’ friendship under great strain and the story encompasses their entire lives. It’s a story of a unique culture, friendship, understanding, community, and a dangerous and demanding profession.

My Thoughts:

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Blogger Recognition Award

May 13, 2019

I’ve Been Nominated For The Blogger Recognition Award!

Blogger Recognition Award

I’ve been nominated! It makes my day to be nominated for an award! Bloggers work hard to bring their followers consistent, inspiring, and relevant posts, and although it’s thrilling when followers leave likes and comments, it’s extra thrilling when fellow bloggers recognize and shout out your efforts.

It’s with a full heart that I shout out a huge thank you to Amanda at The Lexington Bookie for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. As well as answering the questions, this is a great opportunity for me to share a few extraordinary bloggers with you.

Blogger Recognition Award Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger for nominating you and give the link to their blog.
  2. Write a blog post on your website showing the award.
  3. Describe the story of why you started your blog.
  4. Write two pieces of advice you have for new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 10 more bloggers.
  6. Notify each of your nominees that you have nominated them.

Why I Started Blogging:

When I first contemplated retirement from my teaching career, I knew I would need to channel that passion and energy. I needed something I could jump right into that would help ease the bittersweet sting of retirement. I started by thinking about my interests and skills: I am a voracious reader, I love searching out and recommending the best books (especially histfic), I love to read new releases, I love to write, I often annoy others by oversharing my great reads with anyone who will listen, I am not intimidated by technology, (teaching required learning new technology and before my teaching career I dabbled in graphic design), and I was already an avid reader of various blogs. During the last week of teaching, I drove home each night dreaming and scheming about creating my own space on the world wide web to share my love of reading and great books. On the last day of teaching (June 17), I hunkered down with a yellow pad to write my first blog post. By July, I had met with a techie friend (thanks Chad!) to help me with the intricacies of WordPress and by July 27, I was ready to hit publish. Of course, the weeks and months since then have provided great opportunities for learning more about the wonderful world of blogging.

Advice For New Bloggers:

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How to Start a Book Club

May 8, 2019

How do you start or organize a book club?

How to Start a Book Club

book club

These are my friends that gathered one Saturday afternoon to discuss Invention of Wings.

Have you wondered what’s involved with starting a Book Club?

Are you in a book club? Have you thought about starting a book club?
Would you like to join a book club?

love to read

  • If you want to be in a book club, you may need to be the one to start it. But first, check your local library or bookstore to see if they already have a book club you can join.

 

love to read

  • How do I find members for my book club? You might be fortunate to have friends who are readers and want to form a club. Great, you’re all set. But sometimes our friends are not readers, then what? Maybe you can inquire among the neighbors or at your children’s sports practices or at church? I’ve also seen inquiries on my city’s Facebook page. One of my blogger friends has access to funds at her church and purchases a set of books and then passes the books out to young women in her church, inviting them to read the book and then opening her home for a one evening book discussion. This is a great opportunity for young moms who might not have extra money to buy books and who might be needing a night out! Creating a two-person book club with you and your BFF, your mom, your sister, a child, or a grandchild also counts as a legit book club. Ask your colleagues at work. Perhaps you could meet at lunchtime or after or before work once a month. Be creative! I know you can find your people!

 

love to read

  • How do I organize a book club? There is no right way to organize a Book Club. It can be small or large. A book club can meet in your home, in a coffee shop, at the library or a park, or virtually.
    • If you open your home for a book club, you can offer light appetizers and wine (or assorted beverages) or dessert and coffee. Some book clubs might meet mid-morning and others in the afternoon or evening. Whatever works for the participants is key, but meet on a regular schedule, keep it simple, and think about rotating hosts. If you’ve read The Little Book of Hygge, this is a perfect opportunity to put some of the concepts into practice!
    • Sometimes a small group of readers will meet in a coffee shop, choosing an off-peak time and a place where they can sit together for an hour or so without inconveniencing other customers who are waiting for tables.
    • Your library might have a book club you can join or might have a place where a group could meet, although one disadvantage is lack of snacks. You could also consider brown bagging it and meeting at a quiet park during the spring and summer months.

 

love to read

  • What is a Non-Traditional Book Club?
    • A Literacy Club: Instead of reading the same book, members each bring a book or two they’ve been reading lately. These friends take turns giving a brief synopsis of the book and a reason why it was a good read (or your group can decide the parameters of the sharing). These clubs are gaining in popularity, and I like them because (1) there’s no pressure to read a certain book that might not be your preference or that doesn’t work for you, (2) each person has a chance to speak/share and this helps the one that might have difficulty speaking up in a group setting, and (3) the sharing is inspiring and generates enthusiasm for many different genres. Check out this inspiring post about a book club meeting from a blogger friend, fellow book lover, and host extraordinaire, Rhonda.
    • A Social Media Group: Some reading friends who are not logistically close to each other have created private Facebook groups or Instagram groups to discuss books.
    • Postal Book Club: This works for readers who want to form a book club with family or friends but they are scattered across the country. I am part of a postal book club that is comprised of a group of readers that I met online, and it works like this: six people each choose and buy a book and a small journal; a master mailing list is created and every two months the book you have is mailed to the next person on the list along with the journal; at the end of the year you will have read six books (including your own) and will receive your own book and your journal back to read all the comments; the fun part of this is keeping the book titles secret so that your book mail is a surprise and it’s fun to receive book mail! We use the Media Rate for mailing which takes a bit longer but is less expensive.
    • Online Book Clubs: There are also various online book clubs you can join. I belong to the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club but participation requires a $10 membership fee; the upside is that the members are seriously engaged and the organizers provide live book chats and author chats, monthly book suggestions and message boards with topics that include the monthly selection and various other bookish topics (members in my Postal Book Club are from this group). Another option is Goodreads. You can search their groups to find something that might appeal to you. I find that having engaging conversations on Goodreads is cumbersome because the notification system isn’t the greatest. There are numerous Facebook groups you can follow, but they feel impersonal to me, often they read books that are not in my preferred genre, and it’s difficult to make friends. Of all my online book activities, the MMD Book Club has been the most rewarding.

 

love to read

  • How do book clubs choose what to read? Some clubs stick to one genre like historical fiction or rotate genres throughout the year; some clubs enjoy reading classics; other clubs may choose to focus on diverse literature or contemporary fiction or new releases or nonfiction ….. the possibilities are exciting! If your book club rotates hosts, sometimes the host gets to choose the next book as a perk of hosting. Often, members will come prepared with one suggestion and then the group will vote on the next read.

 

love to read

  • How is a book club meeting structured? It’s a good idea to discuss norms at your first meeting. If you don’t, it can be difficult to reign things in later. Honestly, one complaint I frequently hear about book clubs is that “We spend most of our time chatting and only a few minutes discussing the book.” Talk about this up front and agree on some guidelines. Meetings can be informal with members tossing out observations and questions as they feel led. Or meetings can be more structured and look like this: each member comes prepared with one question (about the book) to ask the group and the members take turns asking their questions and getting responses from the group. Another more structured approach is when one member (the host? or the person who chose the book?) creates a set of questions to ask the group. Often these questions can be found in the back of the book or online.  My favorite structure is when each person comes prepared with one question to ask. You could modify this to be a question or a favorite passage to share.

 

love to read

  • What if a book club member doesn’t read the book? Well….this happens from time to time….perhaps it’s because of unforeseen circumstances or perhaps there was some problem with the content and the person chose not to finish the book. My advice is to welcome the nonreader! Chances are this might happen to you once too! Extend Grace. Hopefully, the engaging discussion will encourage the nonreader to read the next book! If the person is a habitual nonreader, she or he will probably drop out of the group after some time.

 

love to read

  • What is the ideal number of participants? I think 6-8 is an optimal number for a small group. You want enough members so that if one or two can’t make it, you still have more than two people to carry on an engaging conversation. More than ten might be unwieldy and you are more likely to experience side conversations. Really, the number isn’t a concern. You and your best friend is the perfect number, too!

 

love to read

  • Do we need more than readers and a few snacks? Certain books lend themselves to themes. Although it’s fun to plan food and decorations around themes, it can also be a lot of work for the host.
    • One of my bookstagram friends recently read I Am Malala in her book club and the participants did some henna on their hands and took a group hand photo (here is the Instagram link). So, yes, plan to have fun but don’t do it at the expense of grand book discussions or at risk of host burnout!
    • Some clubs might have a Hawaiian theme and simply wear Hawaiian shirts and move their discussion outside around the pool on balmy summer nights. Simple and fun.
    • Another option for fun is to contact the author and ask her/him to Skype with your group. Debut authors are more likely to consider this invitation, but it never hurts to ask! It might also be fun to read a book by a local author and ask if the author will visit your club. Your Book Club could also arrange to attend a local author event together. You might also find an interview video clip of the author discussing her/his work online and watch it together.

 

love to read

  • What do we talk about? Choose books with good discussion opportunities. It’s actually not a catastrophe if someone in your group dislikes the book because that can add to the variety of the discussion.
    • Discussion can touch on the same elements that might be included in a review (such as setting, likable characters, unreliable narrators, motivations of characters, themes, character-driven vs plot driven, satisfying or open-ended conclusions, favorite quotes, the meaning of the title, point of view/narrator, etc.).

 

love to read

  • Do you have questions, ideas, or comments? The bottom line is that book clubs are not hard to start and can be structured in a variety of ways. I’d love to continue the discussion and hear your ideas or questions in comments.

See this post for my list of books that are likely to create great Book Club discussions.


Let’s Discuss!

Are you in a book club?

What is your favorite thing about your book club or book clubs in general?

Do you have any ideas you can add to this discussion?

Would you like to be in a book club?

Has this post inspired you to think about joining or starting a book club?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Tex



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Book Recommendations For Book Club

May 6, 2019

Do you need book club ideas?

Book Recommendations For Book Club

Some times my book club considers it challenging to find thoughtful, discussable books. Does your book club face that dilemma?

Often after finishing a book, I think: This would make a great book club selection. Usually, I base this opinion on the discussion possibilities and thoughtful themes or relevant issues.

If it would be helpful, here’s a list of books I’ve read that I can confidently recommend for my book club or yours (most suggestions are made with women in mind). The list is also heavily weighted toward historical fiction because I spend most of my reading hours in this genre. I hope you find this list a useful resource in choosing your next read!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Grouped by Star Rating (in no particular order) and by Genre (Titles are Amazon affiliate links or links to my reviews):

Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 5+ Stars

The Gown by Jennifer Robson 5 Stars

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 5 Stars

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 5 Stars

Beantown Girls by Jane Healey 5 Stars

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor 5 Stars

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar 5 Stars

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys 5 Stars

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (and Netflix movie) 5 Stars

News of the World by Paulette Jiles 5 Stars

America’s First Daughter or My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray (both) 5 Stars

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor 5 Stars

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter 5 Stars

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon 5 Stars

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe 5 Stars

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom 5 Stars

Learning to See by Elise Hooper 5 Stars

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A-Z of Me, Part 2

May 1, 2019
(Happy May Day!)

A-Z of Me, Part 2

A-Z of Me Part 2

Just for Fun!

Today I’m joining many other bloggers who have created A-Z posts. This is Part 2; find A-Z of Me, Part 1 here. Thanks to Nicki at The Secret Library Book Blog and Lynne at Fictionophile for the inspiration!

N

N is for Naps!
Whether listening to the roar of waves at the beach, lounging by the pool, crashing in front of the TV, or gently rocking in the back porch swing, the day becomes a little sweeter with space for a cat nap!

napping

Image Source: Kasya Shahovskaya on Unsplash

O

O is for Oceans!
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach (Surf City), La Jolla, Santa Barbara, Hawaii!
Everything is better at the beach! I’m fortunate to live within driving distance of all these California beaches. Have you been to any of these beaches? Do you live near a beach? What is your favorite beach?

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California: Image Source: Richard Eddy on Unsplash

 

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach, California: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

 

Newport Beach

Newport Beach, California: Image Source: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

 

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla, California: Image Source: Zach Josephson on Unsplash

 

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara, California: Image Source: OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

 

Hawaii

Hawaii: Image Source: Image Source: Sean O. on Unsplash

 

P

P is for Popcorn!

At home, at the movies or the ballpark, popcorn is my favorite snack!

Popcorn Machine

Image Source: shannon VanDenHeuvel on Unsplash

Q

Q is for Quirky!
If I were an archer, I would use a cool word like quiver. Or if I were a musician, I might be in a quartet (although I’m not musical, I love listening to String and Barbershop Quartets and The Four Tenors!).

After some consideration of Q, I settled on Quirky. Some of my favorite literary characters are quirky (we call them quirky but really they are brave individuals who are overcoming obstacles and striving to live their best lives). For example, Eleanor of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Ove of A Man Called Ove, Harold of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Britt-Marie of Britt-Marie Was Here, Ruth of the Inspector Gamache series, Martha of The Library of Lost and Found, Keiko of The Convenience Store Woman, and Harold of The Music Shop. Do you have characters you can add to this list? Aren’t we all just a little bit quirky?

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A-Z of Me, Part I

April 22, 2019

A-Z of Me, Part I

A-Z of Me Part 1

Just for Fun!

Today I’m joining many other bloggers who have created A-Z posts. Although I’ve seen these posts around from time to time, I’ve recently been inspired by Nicki’s at The Secret Library Book Blog and by Lynne’s at Fictionophile.

A

A is for Avocado!
A sandwich is hardly worth eating without avocado slices. Then, adding avocado to tacos, salads, etc. makes for a divine eating experience. Don’t forget the guacamole and chips! We have a local restaurant whose servers come to your table to make fresh guacamole for guests. I’d be happy with guacamole and chips as my entire meal!

B

B is for Books! Blogs! Book Clubs!
Surprised?!
I love losing myself in books, writing and reading blog posts, and participating in book clubs. I love finding bookish friends, and the first question I want to ask a person is “What are you reading?” Making bookish friends around the world in blogging and Instagram communities has been a delightful and treasured endeavor! Just recently I met 3 other bookstagramers IRL for the first time at an author event. I’m a member of an IRL book club and several online book clubs…..most frequently participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcey Book Club. Of course, I also love sharing current reads with my followers here. Thank you readers for your visits, likes, and comments…..your interaction means a lot to me!

i love books

book club

IRL Book Friends

C

C is for Chocolate!

I adore chocolate in most forms! My favorite candy bar is probably Baby Ruth. I love chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge for a decadent desert. I also need to mention warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies directly  from the oven! cadbury eggsCadbury Eggs are always a temptation this time of year! My favorite frozen treat is dark chocolate covered raspberry sorbet bars by Dove (thanks Mom!). Trust me. You’re welcome!

dove bars

All this chocolate wouldn’t be sodacomplete without my favorite beverage, Diet Dr. Pepper!

C is also for Candy Crush!
A mention of candy wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Candy Crush! How many of you still play? I tackle it in spurts these days. I play until the thought crosses my mind “What am I doing? I could be reading right now!” I’m on Level 2,420 and have never spent money on it….I am a strategic user of free items however! I don’t love it as much as I used to, and I play out of habit I guess.

candy crush

D

D is for Dogs!
I love labrador and golden retrievers! We’ve had both, and now we have granddogs who are retrievers. They are sweet, loyal, kid friendly, furry friends and are the perfect addition to any family.

cooper

Meet Cooper

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We Love Authors

April 15, 2019

We Love Authors!

We Love Authors

authors spotlightIf you love historical fiction like me, then you will understand my excitement in taking a break from reviewing today to share a special event with you! Last Saturday I attended a Historical Fiction Author Brunch with four fabulous histfic authors! Not only was the author panel spectacular, but four instagramers (bookstagramers) who had never met in real life, engineered a meet up!

Heartfelt thanks to Friends of the Corona Public Library for sponsoring, planning, and hosting this event. Readers in attendance enjoyed a delicious brunch and inspiring talks by three historical fiction authors. We loved hearing some behind the scenes stories about their research and writing process. Meeting an author always endears you to their work!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

These are the four historical fiction authors we met (book titles are Amazon links and an * for the ones I’ve read):

Kate Quinn

The Alice Network (my review)
The Huntress
The Empress of Rome Series
The Borgias Chronicles Series

Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War (my review)
As Bright As Heaven (my review)
A Fall of Marigolds *
Secrets of a Charmed Life *
The Shape of Mercy
and many many more!

Kristina McMorris

Sold on a Monday(my review)
The Edge of Lost
Letters From Home
and many more!

Marie Benedict

The Only Woman in the Room
The Other Einstein
Carnegie’s Maid

Add a book to your TBR!

 

author brunch 5

The Panel (l to r): Kristina McMorris, Marie Benedict, Kate Quinn, Susan Meissner

author brunch 4

Book Signing (Tina @ readingbetweenthepagesblog and Jaymi @ orangecountyreadersblog)

author brunch 3

Book Signing (Amanda @ Instagram and Tina @ readingbetweenthepagesblog)

author brunch 2

Group Photo:
Instagramers in the Back Row (l to r): Jaymi (OrangeCountyReadersBlog, Instagram); Tina (ReadingBetweenthePagesBlog, Instagram); Myself; Amanda (Instagram)
Authors Seated (l to r): Marie Benedict (Instagram); Kate Quinn (Instagram); Kristina McMorris (Instagram); and Susan Meissner (Instagram)



Event Rating: 5 Stars!

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

This is a link to last year’s event at the same location with different authors. Susan Meissner was the moderator of this year’s panel, and she was a guest author at last year’s event.



Let’s Discuss!

Have you read a book by any of these authors? What author events have you attended? Which author event was your favorite? If you could attend any author event, which one would you most like to attend?

I’d like to attend a Fredrik Backman or Louise Penney author event.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

10 Elements of a 5 Star Read

April 4, 2019

What Are the Elements of a 5 Star Read?

 

Elements of a 5 Star Read

Image Source: Canva

Wow! This is a subjective question, and I’ll offer a subjective response!

Do you rate the books you read on Goodreads using the Five Star Rating System? At times, it can be a daunting task that requires extensive deliberation. While I’m certain you have developed your own criteria, I’d love to share mine with you in this post. When I finally award that elusive 5 Star rating, I’m likely to consider most, if not all, of the following ten factors:

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8 Ways I Choose My Next Read

February 24, 2019

How Do I Choose My Next Read?

8 Ways to Choose Your Next Read

Image Source: Canva

Modern Mrs Darcy  inspired my thoughts about how I choose my next read during a recent webinar (paid content so I can’t provide a link). Thanks to Modern Mrs Darcy for causing me to stop and consider my strategies. This not a summary of her webinar, but its my response in exploring this topic. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

top ten tuesdayI’m also linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things That Make Me Immediately Want to Read a Book (even though I’ve listed 8 and not 10)

8 Ways I Choose My Next Read

1. Genres & Covers

As tempting as a great cover can be, the genre and diversity aspects are more important considerations for me. I have set a goal to read more nonfiction as well. When choosing books, I’m intentionally looking for authors of color and authors who are women. I actively look for more “own voices” literature. In addition, I like to balance my reading with some Middle Grade and Young Adult selections.

Covers are not that important to me. Since I read ebooks almost exclusively, it’s not as easy for me to fall back on the tried and true strategies most commonly used if you were browsing physical copies in a book store. For example with an ebook, it’s more difficult to select a book by a cover because it doesn’t jump out at me the same as when I’m comparing it with fifty titles before me on a shelf at Target. When purchasing ebooks, I’m usually more focused on the kindle price! However, when I see a book reviewed, I definitely make a mental note about the appeal of a cover. Sometimes I can’t even remember what the title of my book looks like when I’m reading it because it’s not sitting around on an end table…..once I open it on my kindle and start reading, I never see the cover. Some of the covers I’ve recently loved include Amal Unbound, The Ensemble, How to Find Love in a Bookshop, Refugee, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls. One cover I don’t love and it almost caused me to miss a great read is Eden. Choosing a book by a cover is one of the disadvantages of reading ebooks, but it’s one of the most popular ways of choosing physical books. How many of you choose a book by the cover? What’s the last book you chose exclusively for the cover?

2. Trusted Reviewers

Because I’m part of the Bookstagram community (Instagram for accounts devoted to books and reviews) and follow many review blogs, I have identified several reviewers whom I trust in choosing books for my TBR. Find a blogger who focuses on the genres you love, and then also follow their reviews on the blog, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. One of my most trusted sources for summer reading ideas is the Summer Reading Guide from the Modern Mrs Darcy website. How many of you choose books based on trusted reviewers?

3. Amazon and Goodreads Reviews

I pour over Amazon and Goodreads reviews in the following ways. First I check the 3 star reviews and then the 2s and 1s. I really want to know what issues other readers have with the book. I balance these out with a few 4 and 5 star reviews which are always glowing but are useful for identifying some strengths. I spend more time in the 3, 2, and 1 star range trying to identify any triggers (such as graphic violence, explicit sexual content, profane language, abuse, etc.) or possible pace, plot, structure, and/or writing problems. Then I evaluate the importance of these issues (balanced by the strengths) and if I can live with them during the reading experience. The danger with perusing reviews is that you might come across spoilers. Do you check out Amazon and/or Goodreviews before making a reading decision?

4. Pre Reading

If I were in a bookstore or library, I might do some pre reading: the first page, a random page from the middle, the introduction/preface and acknowledgments (this will sometimes give interesting information about the author’s purpose or reasons for writing the book), and the publisher’s summary on the back cover or flap. I’m careful and skeptical about the publisher’s sales pitch. Sometimes it doesn’t truly represent the content of the story or is misleading. With an ebook, I depend on the Amazon feature which allows me to download a sample. This gives me an idea of the writing style and tone. One more idea if you have multiple books in your hand that you want to read, is to “speed read” (I first heard this term and concept from Kate Olson Reads) each book for a certain amount of time (for example, three minutes). Do you scope out potential reads using any of these strategies?

5. Blurbs

One area that I honestly give very little weight to are blurbs by other authors found on the cover or inside pages. It’s my opinion that these blurbs have been carefully curated and cultivated…….perhaps these authors are friends or neighbors or in the same writing group. I’m a bit skeptical and usually don’t let them sway me. This is a personal opinion……do any of you feel the same way?

6. Buzz

I don’t read a book simply because it’s receiving a lot of hype…..I make sure it’s the right read for me. Sometimes if I’m not sure, I allow some time for the hype to die down. I can usually tell if it’s for me because multiple reviewers whom I trust will review and recommend. This is a little tricky because I have a great deal of FOMO and I love to read new releases and be a part of the initial buzz! Although sometimes a great deal of buzz sets the reader up with expectations that are too high and it ends up a disappointing read. Even a favorite author’s new book might not meet your expectations. The last book I read with a lot of buzz was Where the Crawdads Sing and, for me, it lived up to the buzz. What’s the last book you chose based on the buzz? Did you enjoy the read?

7. Best Friends

If you are lucky to be surrounded by readers in your life, you might depend upon a recommendation from a best friend. Before I started closely following reviews, I interrogated my friends that I  met for lunch. My first question was always, “What are you reading?” because I knew that we enjoyed the same genres and quality of literature. Friends were always good for a few recommendations and I had reads for the next few months. My mom shares a Kindle account with me, so her next reads come from my ebook library. Luckily, we have similar bookish tastes. Do you have a friend you can ask for a recommendation? Sometimes I “push” books on my friends by buying them my favorite read of the year for a Christmas gift. Do you receive books or titles from your best friends?

8. Commitments

When choosing my next read, I always have to consider my book club and NetGalley commitments. I’m a part of three book clubs: Modern Mrs. Darcy (online club, $10/month fee, title/discussion threads provided), Postal Book Club (a mailing group of 6 people who share/rotate books and a mailing deadline every two months), and an IRL (in real life) book club (monthly commitment). In addition, I’m under obligation to read and review free books that I receive from publishers via NetGalley (so I monitor pub dates to determine my reading priorities). When I think about my next read, I must take these commitments into consideration first. Do you have a commitment to a book club? If you’re a mood reader (like me) sometimes it can be difficult to read a book you feel like you “have” to read (especially if you have to forgo reading the latest release that’s receiving all the buzz!….or is that just me?).

Do any of these methods for choosing your next read resonate with you? How do you most often choose your next read?

Even though I read about 100 books per year and I’ve done my best to check them each out, not every read meets my expectations. Reading is still a personal experience and no two readers read the same book. One that I love might not resonate with you at all. Only the books I’ve rated 4 and 5 stars will be reviewed on the blog. I want to be a blogger you can trust.  You can always find all my reviews on Goodreads.



Let’s Discuss!

Share with me! How do you choose your next read? What methods have been the most successful for you? Do you have tips/strategies you can add? Is there a book you’ve picked up because of reading a review here?

*This weekend while blog hopping, I came across a post with the same topic…..so enjoy this perspective from bookidote blog



Feedback

I’m curious how my reviews are resonating with all of my followers. If you are a regular reader, would you consider taking one or two minutes to comment about a book you read based on reading a review here? I’d love to hear.



A Few Trusted Reviewers

I follow a lot of blogs…..listed below are a few of the blogs/podcasts that I check most frequently. There are too many to list here…..these are a sample of a few recent posts that I’ve read.

Modern Mrs Darcy Blog & What Should I Read Next Podcast

Jennifer~Tar Heel Reader Blog

The Lexington Bookie Blog

The Secret Library Book Blog

Fictionophile Blog

My newest discovery is Orange County Readers

From the Front Porch Podcast (books reviews/book talk with a side of southern charm)

Reading Women Podcast (reviewing books about women written by women….lots of literary fiction, interviews, and thoughtful book talk)



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

How I Write a Fiction Book Review

*this post contains affiliate links

January 12, 2019

How I Write a Fiction Book Review

how i write a book review

Have you written a book review?

Do you write reviews for Goodreads? Instagram? Or occasional blog reviews?

If you’ve never written a review, would you like you to try?

Even if you are an avid reader and are not interested in writing reviews, you might be interested to know how I approach writing a review because it might enhance your reading experience. If you don’t write a review, you might tell a friend what you like about a book or give a video review in Instagram stories, and that involves some of the same thinking and communication skills as a written review. Here’s a behind the scenes look at my process for writing a fiction book review. Usually for a review, I will choose a few of these elements to build my review….it depends on the reading and what impressed me.

My Intent. In sharing my thoughts, I need to stress that I am a definite work in progress. Readers have vastly different opinions on books and reviews, and writing a review feels like walking through a mine field at times. I want to provide honest reviews, but I don’t want to offend anyone either or be overly critical of an author. Even though I rewrite and thoughtfully edit my reviews, I realize they can be improved. It’s also helpful to read and learn from the reviews of others. What I’m offering here are steps to begin your thinking process and to explore the planning stage of writing a review.

1

First…

writie a reading review

Photo by Tracy Adams on Unsplash

…and this is not meant to scare you, but… I usually think about how I’m going to take notes. I’ve found that when a thought strikes me while I’m reading that it’s best to write it down. Otherwise, the book takes my mind in so many different directions that I can’t always remember the specific moments that make the most impact. I also like to note at least one quote for my review. For me, it’s convenient to make notes right in the notes section of my iPad as I’m reading because I complete the majority of my reading in the Kindle app on my iPad. You could keep a small notebook or even a scrap of paper that doubles as a bookmark. It doesn’t matter what the note taking process looks like for you. I find that looking at my notes gives me a great starting point for my review. Recently, I read a physical copy of a book and decided that I would simply flag certain passages with little flag post its. Well….my five year old grandson picked up my book one day and little hands removed a few of my post its! Sometimes there are hazards involved with note taking.

Next is the reading…..and I’m considering the following elements:

2

Setting

Using my five senses, can I envision a place? The time period? The atmosphere? The season? When I close my eyes and stop to think about the story, can I place myself in the story? What do I see, hear, touch, feel, taste, smell? What details do I notice? If I’m having difficulty in answering these questions, this might mean a low rating for this element of the story. How important is the setting to the story? Is the setting an important aspect of the story or could the story have taken place in any location or in any time period? Sometimes the setting can be as important in a story as a character. An example of this is Where the Crawdads Sing.

3

Main Characters/Narrator/Point of View

Are main characters well developed? I’m hoping not to find stereotypes (this lowers my star rating). I’m watching for diversity, point of view, and I’m looking intently for character traits. Sometimes there are too many characters and keeping them straight is confusing. Who’s the narrator of the story? Is the story told from multiple perspectives or only one? Are the characters children, young adults, or adults? Or is this a story of family dynamics? Interestingly, the story in The Book Thief is told by Death. That’s an interesting detail for a review!

4

Plot/Pacing

Do the events of the story move the story forward at a nice pace? Or are there places where the story drags? At the story’s end, are you left with unanswered questions and disappointed with dangling story lines? Is the story predictable? (this is something that readers tend to either like or dislike) Does it bother you if you are able to consistently guess what is going to happen before it happens? Honestly, predictability takes a bit of the enjoyment out of the story for me and I usually give those stories three stars. Is the story engaging? Is it a page turner? Is it a happily ever after (HEA)? Is it unputdownable? Is the story character driven or plot driven? An example of character driven is A Gentleman in Moscow, and an example of plot driven is The Great Alone.

5

Important Themes

Themes are the most enjoyable part of my reading experience and my favorite aspect of writing a review. I love a great theme! A story that doesn’t have a few good themes won’t be earning four or five stars from me. I always include themes in my reviews. Common themes include family dynamics (parent/child, siblings), faith, friendship, loyalty, ambition, bravery, determination, survival, pursuing a dream or goal, loss, achievement, overcoming obstacles, grief, etc., etc.

6

The Writing

Does the writing flow? Or are you confused and find yourself rereading for clarification or understanding? Is it evident that the writer excels at her or his craft? With certain authors like Fredrik Backman, I need to stop often and simply reflect on how beautifully the sentence was constructed or how uniquely the thought was expressed (Beartown).  I notice gorgeous and creative figurative language, descriptive details, and a unique turn of phrase (Virgil Wander). The recent trend of not punctuating dialogue (The Boat People) seriously annoys me and slows down my reading pace. Even though the author has a specific artistic reason for using this style (which I appreciate), it still creates a more difficult than necessary reading experience. Personally, I like short chapters. I have a difficult time stopping mid chapter, so I appreciate having frequent opportunities for taking a pause. In addition, short paragraphs lend itself to easier reading. This might be a good place to note that I love reading books by “own voices” authors (e.g. Inside Out and Back Again or The Hate U Give). This is an interesting fact to point out in a review. Some of what I mention in this section consists of personal preferences and will be a small consideration in your rating.

7

Enjoyability Factor

This is one of the most important elements in a book review. Potential readers want to know if you enjoy the book and why or why not. I ask myself: Would I reread this? Does it earn a place on my “forever shelf”? Am I tempted to carry it with me where ever I go? Do I find myself wanting to pull it out and read at stop signs? Would I save it in a fire? Is it unputdownable? Did I read the entire book in one day or one sitting? (Castle of Water) Did I neglect everything else in my life to read this book? Or did I purposefully stretch it out to savor it? Recently, I lent a book to my mother and her complaint about it was that she wasn’t getting her housework done because she was constantly tempted to pick up the book (The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter) to find out what happened next! Do I recommend this book to everyone I see? How many significant connections with characters and/or circumstances have I made with the story? My favorite read of last year (A Place For Us) earned five stars from me mostly because of the emotional connections I felt with the characters. It outweighed every other element of the story. Ultimately, reading is a subjective and emotional experience and no two people read the same book. Does the book give me a reading hangover? That is, do I still think about the story and the characters days and weeks or even years later? This enjoyability factor sometimes determines the difference between a four and a five star read for me. Five star reads MUST meet many aspects of the enjoyability factor. The enjoyability factor will be evident in your review and your enthusiasm will be the part of your review that causes other readers to pick up the book. It’s a good thing to let your enthusiasm for a book show! If I don’t sense a reviewer’s enthusiasm, I think that she/he must not be recommending it despite all the other wonderful points being made. (Some reviewers do not believe in leaving negative reviews, so I’ve learned to read between the lines!)

8

Recommendation

I typically end my review with a recommendation (e.g. “recommended for readers of historical fiction”). You can recommend the genre, the style of writing, the topic, the author, read-a-likes, etc. This is something I look for in a review because it helps me decide if this story is one for me or if it eliminates me. If I write that a book is recommended for readers who love paranormal, what I’m also saying is you might not want to read this if you don’t like the genre. Bottom line, there are kind ways of saying negative things. I’ve developed a few tricks for writing reviews for books that haven’t been the best reads for me. It’s amazing what can be communicated by creating a recommendation statement.

9

Star Ratings

The Five Star Rating System is a fairly subjective and highly discussed rating system. I happen to love when reviewers give me a star rating….it provides a great deal of information at a glance. However, some reviewers avoid the star rating system completely. Goodreads has a guideline for the 5 star system and you can find my complete explanation of my five star scale here. This is a brief explanation of mine: 5=it’s going on my lifetime favorites list; 4=very good read; 3=OK, satisfactory; 2=didn’t like it for several reasons; 1=DNF, not recommended. If you decide to use the 5 star system, I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the categories and developing what the stars mean to you and then apply it consistently. I will warn you that it is rather disconcerting to see that someone has awarded 1 star to your 5 star read!

10

Other Considerations

The Hook: It’s always good writing technique to begin your review with a hook. Three ideas for frequently used hooks: create a question (based on a theme or conflict from the story), consider a bold statement (a fact from the story), or find a quote (from your notes!).

Genre: You want to mention the genre in your review. If you’re not sure, check sites like Amazon (looking to see where it’s been shelved is helpful). Keep the genre in mind when writing your review. Does the story accomplish what the genre typically  sets out to do? I try not to rate the story down for standards I would apply to another genre. For example, a YA selection is likely to include teenage angst, so I take that into consideration even though I might not have enjoyed it. Chic Lit is going to be light, predictable, and perhaps filled with stereotypes. Memoirs are going to be focused on self. Science fiction might need a suspension of belief. I need to remind myself frequently to keep the genre in mind. Let the reader know if the book is a genre that you don’t typically read so that your comments are taken in context. Others that prefer that genre might really enjoy the read.

Triggers: It’s always appropriate and considerate of readers to let them know about possible trigger warnings in a way that allows them to make their own reading decision (offensive language, steamy romance, graphic violence, sensitive subjects, etc.). Often, if I feel a need to include a trigger warning, I will place it as a simple *starred note at the end of my review. Here’s an example.

Be Specific: Do not say “I liked it.” Include specific examples of what you liked (using ideas from your notes). When we were in school, we learned Point + Example for expository writing. This is a good model for writing a review, too.

Tone: Is it suspenseful? Thrilling? Melancholy? Reflective? Humorous? Pedantic? Agenda driven? Heartfelt? Informative? Atmospheric? Romantic? These are examples of descriptive words you can add into your review that gives readers more insight into what to expect from the reading experience.

Summaries/Spoilers: Although it’s common to begin a review with a brief summary, it’s not absolutely necessary (official summaries are readily available on Amazon or Goodreads). I like to start a review with a general summary (in my own words) because it provides context for the remainder of my review. Be careful not to reveal spoilers. Sometimes, I refer to the synopsis on the back cover when writing my summary, but I find that it can also include spoilers. It’s forgivable to reveal small inconsequential spoilers, but please avoid spoiling the main resolution or final outcome. If you know your review will include spoilers, you can warn readers at the beginning that the review includes spoilers (Goodreads has a spoiler alert function as part of writing a review).

Author’s Note: I hope you always read the author’s note (if provided). It can greatly enhance your reading experience and provide an important perspective. I remember when I read We Were the Lucky Ones, I was struck by the author’s note that the story was really her family history, and it made the story even more meaningful for me and I was sure to include that information in my review.

Extra Resources: Sometimes authors will include extra resources like maps, illustrations, links, photos (especially if it’s a fictionalized biography). Specifics like this might be nice to mention in a review. It’s also interesting and helpful to include links to outside sources in your review if available. For example, I recently reviewed a fictionalized biography about Dorothea Lange and I included three links to YouTube video clips about her life.

Length: Reviews can be short or more detailed. For a blog post, I will write a longer review than what I write for Goodreads. You can pick one of the above elements as your focus or select a few elements. Sometimes it helps to develop a template (e.g. one sentence summary+a sentence about characters or plot or theme+a sentence about what you enjoyed most about the story+a sentence about recommending the read).

Proofread: I always read my review several times to proof for spelling, punctuation, word usage, verb tense agreement (I like to write book reviews in present tense), sentence structure, clarity,  clear communication of ideas, etc. I also consider if there is a kinder way to say something if I’m being critical.

Do I Need to Write a Review? First, writing a review is a perfect way to support an author and authors greatly appreciate reviews. If you tag them on Instagram, many of them will respond with a “like” or a comment. Out of consideration, I only tag authors when I write very positive reviews. If you start writing reviews, keep in mind that you are not required to write a review for every book you read! Sometimes I simply give it a Star rating on Goodreads and leave it at that with no explanation. Or if it’s a book that I really dislike, I will shelve it as a DNF on Goodreads with no review or star rating. If I can’t say one good thing about the book, I usually won’t write a review. Although if I do review a book I dislike, I’ll start off with a statement of what I appreciate about the book and then add statements about what “I wish…” would have been different. For an example of one of the most negative reviews I’ve written read here. For an example of a recent book I felt meh about read here. If I can’t give a book a 4 or 5 star rating, I usually won’t feature it on the blog. Occasionally, a 3.5 will be featured. When you see a book review on this blog, I want you to be able to trust that I’m sincerely and wholeheartedly recommending it (even though you may end up with a different opinion).

Criticism: Your reviews are public so be prepared for a variety of responses. Most commenters are kind and will make comments like “I enjoyed it.” Very rarely you might receive a negative comment such as “I do not agree at all.” If I disagree with a reviewer, I usually do not write a comment. If I comment, I relate it to something positive she/he said in their review. (practice “eye roll and scroll” and “let it be” as the kind response)



Let’s Discuss!

I hope this gives you some ideas and encouragement for writing reviews! If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to address them in comments.
*TIP: Start in Goodreads with giving a Star rating and writing a one sentence review!
Which of these elements is easiest or most difficult for you to address in a review?
If you’ve never written a review, I hope this information is an encouragement for you.
If you’re an experienced reviewer, what tips or ideas can you add?


#writeareviewandsupportanauthor