I got to attend an event hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore for a discussion about Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, between Catherine and Allison Saft.
Catherine Bakewell was the sweetest! Her and Allison have been friends for about six years. It was cute to see that Allison was so excited to share this moment with her friend. They apparently met over a pitching event. Catherine contacted Allison because she thought her pitch was awesome and then they became query buddies. They announced that they decided the main character in Flowerheart and one of the characters in one of Allison Saft’s books are cousins. Haha.
The host showed some awesome character art that Catherine’s friends made. One piece of art was made by her friend when her friend read her manuscript four years ago. She had called her up and was like, “Now is the time!”
Catherine’s book is a cottagecore YA Fantasy Romance. Cottage core is light-hearted, summery, and takes place in country side. It is a cozy fantasy. In her book, her main character Clara makes flowers grow because of her emotions. She accidently curses her father, making flowers grow in his lungs. She then has to team up with her best friend who is hiding secrets and they have to make a hard bargain. It is apparently full of feelings.
In the book she uses concepts of flowers that she learned from Nancy Drew computer games that stuck in her mind. The name Xavier is also from Nancy Drew!
Catherine started the book in 2017 and wanted to make it a fun and bright world. It is different from the first version of the book drastically, but she still kept it fun and lovely. Some of the things that had changed from the beginning was the age of the characters. When she started, she considered the book adult and had the characters 22-years-old. But then she was told it was YA, so she made them 18, then 17, and then the editor had her make them 16. Also, the two main characters Clara and Xavier didn’t know each other at first. To solve the problem of them falling in love in 9 days, she made them childhood best friends.
I loved when she talked about her listening to her audio book version. She said it was like watching a movie in her head that she has watched at one minute increments for many years. She said it is like listening to her children. She loves being able to go on the journey with her characters again in a cinematic form.
She considers this a very therapeutic book. It has lessons she had learned from therapy in the book that the characters puts into practice.
All The White Spaces by Ally Wilkes was a book to have an interesting conversation about.
The vibe everyone got from the book was gothic-ship/ gothic-Antarctica because there was such emotional trauma and desperation coming from those places displayed atmospherically.
Most of the people in the book club loved the book, but a lot of Goodreads reviews were not a fan of what everyone in discussion loved about it.
Below, when I say “others” I am mainly talking about reviewers and the smallest amount of people in the book club.
Some found it not slow-paced at all, while others found it too technical and too slow. Some found it didn’t present the LGBTQIA+ community enough because of the technicalities being in some areas while not in others, while others thought that the emotional social aspects of the story and the journey did. Some found it scary, others didn’t. Some liked the balance of suspenseful events, others wanted more.
Definitely conflicting opinions with this one. I think after listening in depth to readers it comes down to whether a reader likes a character-driven-slow-burn book or not.
Oxford Exchange Bookstore hosted an event to talk about The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. It was great seeing what worked for everyone and what things other readers knew about the author and this book after researching.
Everyone loved the snake in the story! All the way from when the snake was a baby to when he was a giant adult snake. Everyone liked the visions, especially in Loki’s point of view. And everyone, of course, liked how the author portrayed Loki. She did an excellent job.
One of the most interesting things about this conversation was how much Marvel influenced everyone’s reading. Everyone imagined Loki the same way because of the movies. We also had a hard time splitting the real mythology from the cinematic mythology that Marvel has brought us. Many didn’t know what Hel looked like in the actual mythology stories and were confused at how she was related to Loki because of the movies. Same with Odin and other characters.
A couple interesting facts that readers pulled from research was that the author combined three different stories to make the main character. Also, that back in time, the heart was seen as something that held memories instead of the brain, and that may be why the heart was represented the way it was in the book.
Jumping back to Loki. This book was marketed as a sapphic book. It was not a sapphic book, or if it was, it gave very little to the relationship that could have been defined as sapphic. But in our conversation, we thought it was interesting that the author went the way she did about it, by not ever really letting Angrboda and Skadi be together, when we thought that Loki would have been more than ok with her being with Skadi and himself, especially since he was doing the same.
Another interesting thing for readers who have not read the book, the book is structured with no chapter breaks. There are only three parts. The first part is about half of the book. For some readers, this bothered them, but for others, especially if listening on an audiobook, it didn’t bother at all.
Very thankful for the awesome conversation and for Oxford Exchange hosting this event.
Tonight, I got to listen to a panel between June Hur, Kristin Dwyer, and Axie Oh to celebrate Susan Lee’s debut Seoulmates.
It was cute how all four of them gushed over K-dramas. It was also funny that Susan Lee admitted that how she writes stories is by following the beats of K-dramas and if she gets stuck, going back to the episodic beats. She said because of that she feels like she is writing fan fic.
It was interesting to hear Susan Lee and the others talk about how most times they get too much in their heads with worry about if what they are writing is too risky and unrealistic, but then they remember that they are writing K-dramas.
When they asked Susan Lee what K-Drama she wished she had written, she said What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim because it is a great example of being formulaic.
Something I learned from this was that K-dramas were usually formulaic, but now are staring to lose their way because episodes will be added as they film after they see how popular they are and what they need to add or not. So, because of that, it takes away from the formulaic feeing that used to let watchers know what they were getting. Now a lot of it feels added on or stitched together.
Had an interesting conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore about The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake. The Atlas Six is a huge conversation starter for many reasons including plot, mechanics, story, characters, morals, and theme, so the conversation was a long and full one.
It was interesting diving into everyone’s favorite character when there were so many. But everyone’s favorite was mostly the same, except for a couple people had different answers. Most people loved Reina. Everyone also was in agreement that they believed Parisa was the author’s favorite character.
Almost everyone had the same take on the ending and are waiting until the next book to have some questions answered and things explained. The ending though threw some for a loop, while for one other they had guessed the twists right away.
One of the most interesting conversations we had was about gate keeping knowledge. We voted that gate keeping should not be allowed because then people would also have the knowledge to protect themselves if they needed to and knowledge is for all.
Everyone liked this book and the cool ideas it brought with it. I know I am excited to read the second one.
Since the author wrote this book for all ages and for each age group to be able to come away with something different, it was very interesting to hear how differently everyone approached the book when reading this. One of the big discussions was how some readers found it too spooky, while others found it not spooky or dark enough at all.
Something that everyone agreed on was how they had sympathy toward the main character Olivia and LOVED her spunk. They also had sympathy toward Mathew. We also found it very interesting how the two characters had to communicate with each other since one was unable to speak and the other did not know sign language. It was very nicely done!
EVERYONE loved the structure of this book, especially with the pictures involved in it. What was very interesting was hearing that some readers listened to the audio book and did not know that there were pictures connected to the book at all. This seemed insane to me since the pictures seemed so instrumental to the story, especially since the author herself felt they were needed for the story. But to hear that people still loved it through the audio book (some gushed at how well the audio book narrator did and were excited to see that there were pictures later on) was amazing and mind-blowing.
Everyone had different feelings about the very end scene of the book though. Some found it happy enough, some found it not happy at all, and some found it just plain sad and lonely. The takeaway though is that the ending fits the tone of the story and compared to where the main character was at the beginning, she is not truly lonely and it is in a way a happy place after all.
Tonight, we talked with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.
One of the things I found the most interesting is that one of the people in the group who normally does not like romance, really liked the romance in this book. Another interesting thing was seeing how the different povs for secondary characters displayed in this book worked for some of the people in the group, while it did not work for others.
I loved hearing about how Chloe Gong was nineteen when she wrote this and that since it is a very dense book with so much going on, many in the group believe that she will amount to great things. It was also really cool hearing how although some in the group could not relate to the storyline at all, there was someone in the group who connected with the story because they were able to relate to the storyline because of how they grew up.
A few things that everyone agreed on were that they all wish that there had been more fantasy elements or at least more of the monster, that the action was fantastic, everyone loved Kathleen, and that they wish there was a prequel about the past events that had occurred that this book talks about in length.
If you can’t tell, my favorite part about discussion tonight was seeing and discussing what worked about this book and what didn’t for the different people in this group.
Got to have an amazing conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. The wonderful hosts started off the club with a question about what tea would be served for everyone at the particular tea shop in the book. Some interesting answers were jasmine-green tea, orange tea, and mint-lemongrass. It was cute to hear the explanations of why those teas would be chosen and it led into even funnier topcs!
The best part about this discussion was learning how this book worked for different people just like how the book highlights how everyone is different so everyone needs different care and everyone will have a different path after death. The book also did amazing when it came to grief and being honest about it, especially how grief is soft and tender but also hard and harsh at times.
It seemed like out of all the characters many of the group’s favorite was Nelson, although a very interesting things was brought up on how a favorite character could not be chosen because all the characters felt like one unit. Another thing that was discussed about characters was how Klune did a terrific job in using the fear of the unknown when it came to the manager.
For my own personal take, I just want to make sure that I state that my favorite lesson in this book was the fact that your death is yours and no one else’s. I love that because it helps readers grasp control of their fear of the after-death.
Oxford Exchange Book Club with the Oxford Exchange Bookstore gave us a great discussion on a very popular and well-known book, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.
The club started out asking who everyone’s favorite character was. The top character who came in first was Rhysand and the second favorite was Lucien. It was very interesting and cool to hear that Amarantha was someone’s favorite character and why (because she was well established)! It was also really cool to hear how much everyone loved the masks that were worn throughout this book and that some did not want them to be taken off at all.
It sounded like a winning-majority’s favorite scene in this book was the giant worm scene because of the obstacles, how it had been developed, and how the task had not come easy to the character at all. That was a hot topic in the club on how important it is for readers to not feel like things come too easy for the characters and how readers want things earned. Although this is a fairy tale retelling, some found that certain parts in the book were too easily defeated or accomplished.
Many liked how the main character was illiterate and how she was challenged in that way. It was also interestingly pointed out how cool it was to see Feyre being the illiterate one instead of Tamlin when it comes from being a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
As for the ending, some loved how it gave the character more depth, some found it too easy and unbelievable, and some found it clever. It was very interesting to discuss preferences for readers, but even more interesting how in the end, everyone still found it entertaining and enjoyed it.
One of my favorite discussions was about the tv series coming out in the future for this series and how we hope they will go about capturing the beauty of this book and its imagery. My second was how differently everyone reads. For Sarah J. Maas’s books, I find myself unable to read them fast, my mind will linger on the images and the beauty of the words keeping me still, whereas some find it so compulsively good that they find themselves reading it fast and for hours nonstop until their eyes are strained. But adding to that discussion and the coolest part was how different everyone pictures characters in general. How some readers don’t picture images in their minds at all, how some feel more than see the characters like they are a type of energy or aurora, and how some do both or picture only a blur with a key feature.
I love these deep conversations with these great people and readers. Thank you, Oxford Exchange.