Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review Monday

I press novels into friends' hands and swap books with them. I chat about characters or plot a couple of times a week. I don't, however, write book reviews. Why? It's complicated.

Readers insert themselves into and may bend a theme, ever so slightly, to serve what they know to be true--or need to be true. We tweak characters and filter their actions or inactions through the sieve of our experiences. We don't mean to do this but can't help ourselves.

The good news: what we bring to a novel enriches our reading of it. The bad news: what we bring may result in a review of a book its author doesn't recognize.

I enjoy thrillers, paranormal stories, and frothy romances, but women's fiction is my go-to read. By WF, I mean stories about relationships in crisis, or families facing the kind of challenge that will shatter them or draw them closer. Give me sibling rivalry, mother and daughters who barely communicate, and father and sons who expect too much of each other.

Once upon a time, I told an acquaintance this was the kind of story I wanted to write. She groaned. "You mean a slice-of-life story?"

"Exactly." I was thrilled she'd grasped what I probably struggled to articulate.

"I hate those," she said. "I read for escape."

Hey, I read for escape, too, but just as we prefer different kinds of vacations (mountains for me, beach for you), we pick different escape routes.

The above is my roundabout way of letting you know what I hope to find in a book. That said, if you're a fan of slice-of-life stories, give Lucy Dillon's WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS a read.

In it, author Dillon introduces us to Juliet Falconer, a young widow who is pushed by her mother into taking the first baby steps past grief. After those first steps, Juliet manages to limit her mother's interference and wobbles mostly forward. Her sister, meanwhile, struggles to maintain a fa├žade of married bliss and uber-competent motherhood. She doesn't share her growing unhappiness because she's sure the pain of Juliet's widowhood trumps what she's going through.

If the above sounds grim, know Juliet has a self-deprecating sense of humor and entertaining if exasperating next-door neighbors, including a clutch of children without boundaries. There's also an intriguing rock-group tour manager, and Minton, a dog so receptive to Juliet's moods, he makes Lassie appear one-dimensional.

I trudged back to happiness with Juliet. More tellingly, when I finished the book, I longed to wipe my memory clean and read it all over again.

Do you have a go-to genre? Have you ever wanted to wipe your memory clean and reread a book? Got a fave right now? What is it?


Coleen Patrick said...

I don't write book reviews--but I participate in the ancient book passing system too Pat :) For some reason the idea of writing a book review seems for more daunting then writing a 60,000 word story. Go figure.
I read a lot of genres--mostly I switch back and forth between YA, romance, autobiographies and mystery.

Lark Howard said...

My reading is all over the place, Pat, although WF isn't my go-to--probably because I don't relate to family dynamics very well. That said, WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS sounds like a great read.

I'm more likely to choose a story with lots of action--thrillers, suspense, adventures, paranormals (very particular about these), and lively historicals.

Right now I'm reading a Vince Flynn and Kimberly Frost's "All That Falls." Very different stories but they both move at a hearty clip.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen,
Let's hear it for the ancient book-passing system! I don't yet know how to share books that are on my kindle--the e-reader disadvantage.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark! Family-dynamic stories don't work for me unless I bond with the characters and actively root for them. Juliet's sister, Louise, gradually won me over and her arc became as important to me as Juliet's.

Then again, there are days when only a fast-paced page turner will do.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I only started writing reviews after I published and learned how important it is to the author. I only review books I like, because I do it to help authors, not hurt. If I don't finish one, I try to figure out why and learn from it.

I like fiction that's a little more removed from my life, so my go-tos are science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, historical, or suspense, preferably with plenty of romance!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
Hmm, now you've got me rethinking my reluctance to do reviews. Like you, I'd only review books I like. In fact, Lark told me before I joined this blog that her policy here was postive-only reviews, and I couldn't agree more with that stance. Life is too short to focus on the negative, especially since taste in stories varies so much.

Happy reading!

Sarah Andre said...

I honestly have tried to write book reviews for author-friends, but the experience smacks of book reports from childhood and I'd rather chew tinfoil. I like the simple 'like' buttons that seem to help authors now, LOL!

My GO TO books at the moment are a few overly-stuffed TBR shelves filled with works of friends. That's a unique and impressive place to be, so I am not complaining.

Back in '05, when I just joined RWA, I did not know one published author. Now my husband has a "Hard Hat Required Area" sign hanging on the burgeoning shelves.

Jeanna Thornton said...

Pat, I enjoyed the post. My favorite go to book has always been women's fiction, aka, "slice of life reads." My second would be memoir...

Thrillers leave me asking the wrong questions so I wouldn't make a fair book viewer, LOL. Have a great day!


Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm laughing about that "Hard Hat Required Area" sign on your book chelves, Sarah.

Books by friends are treasures.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jink,
I know you're another slice-of-lifer. (We'll exchange the secret women's fiction writer handshake when we see each other next.) Hey, I'm on a memoir-reading kick, too. We have to compare notes.

Thanks for stopping by.

Louise Behiel said...

Fun post, Pat. my go to read is romance - almost any genre except paranormal. But right now I'm reading Jennette Powell's fabulous time travel Time's Enemy.

I have to admit that slice of life, ie WF is not my cup of tea most of the time, although I enjoyed Finding Emma, from Steena Holmes. I see enough of life in my real world, I prefer the HEA of romance.