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 talking about the book The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling.
The most awesome part of this discussion was dissecting the horror genre a little. Everyone agreed that The Death of Jane Lawrence did not feel like horror, but that it had some horror elements and gore that was very well described that set the tone for the story.
This book brought about the discussion that the horror genre is great because different horror books can be at a different level of scary depending on the reader and may mean different things to each individual reader, even if it is the same book.
But maybe the best definition of horror I heard tonight was that horror is something that instills a new fear and throws someone off. I feel that like definition resonates with me when it comes to what I am looking for when I read a horror book.
The theme of shame was brought up. A reader found that theme in this book. Shame may be something for readers to think about and grasp onto while reading this book.
Everyone loved the bone wedding bands in this!! Some even would have wanted one for a wedding band themselves. Also, some liked the main character and some didn’t. The ones that didn’t couldn’t find her relatable in marrying a guy she barely knows and then being surprised about his lies. The ones that did had said that the things the main character did were things they would have done also. So that goes back to the beginning of this in how horror books are seen differently by different readers, maybe even more so than most other genres are.
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.
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.
*There will be spoilers for Near the Bone by Christina Henry in this post.
I got to have yet another amazing conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about Near the Bone by Christina Henry! What a great pick for a spooky December, which was exactly what we were looking for. All of us could agree that we appreciated Henry’s style of writing and that not being able to predict what the monster looked like really added to the story. It was fun trying to describe what we all pictured the monster being. This book was great for a discussion in that aspect and in the aspect of what real monsters are and how you can make monsters scary in a story.
Most of us wanted a more gruesome death for the scarier monster in the story. We talked in detail about what would have been more satisfying of an ending for this character and step by step of what we would have rather have happened. One of my favorite discussions pertaining to this book was when we all began naming off a few things in the book that were awkward and did not fit well into the story. It was nice to know I was not alone in feeling the way I had about the drugs and about one of the character’s arms being swiped off.
Something that was brought up in the conversation that I hadn’t noticed and after hearing fixed the ending for me, was how the two monsters mirrored each other and how the ending reflected that. At the end the monster-monster was easiest to reason with, where as the man-monster could not be reasoned with at all. So that brought the story into an interesting take that the man was more of the monster than the monster itself.
Another interesting view that was brought up was how important it was for C.P. to survive against all the others. That happening showed how Samantha was starting to heal when it came to men in her life.
Lastly, before the conversation got too off topic, we discussed how interesting it is that some people cannot picture things in their head. For myself, when I read a book, it plays out like a movie! I cannot imagine that not happening. One person in our group cannot picture things in her head, so it was really cool to hear her point of view and how she sees and views stories. One of the funniest things that she had said was that when someone is like, “Why don’t you like this character, he is hot?” she thinks, “You can’t see him. How is his name hotter than the other name?” What a fun and interesting thing to discuss!
One of the best conversations tonight with Oxford Exchange Book Club discussing She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan! Everyone absolutely loved this book. For some it became their absolute favorite and for others it really helped affirm certain characteristics they had or certain feelings that they had in their own journeys.
Everyone agreed that this author was incredibly crafty and after looking it up during book club, everyone was beyond surprised at how well this book was done when it is the author’s debut! So many in the book club felt that they didn’t just have a want to read it again but a need to revisit it again and even meditate on certain parts.
There were two things that I didn’t even think about that were brought up about this book. One was the fact that the main character’s name in this book was never stated and how that shows how powerful it is to choose your own name and also correlates to having a deadname and the respect of not needing to know it. The other thing was the lesson that if someone didn’t have the certain challenges that you had, that they will have a harder time understanding you and where you came or come from, which is a very great thing to keep in mind when it comes to someone accidently hurting you through not understanding you when you know that they still care for you.
The relationship in this book between Ma and Zhu everyone agrees was outstanding. It was pure romance that really built each of the characters up and blossomed them into accepting who they really were. Also, it was fun to discuss how the relationship between Zhu and Ouyang acted like a mirror and how they were great foils to each other.
It seemed that everyone had come to the same thoughts and conclusions with this book. Everyone hopes for more ghosts in the next one and everyone thought about Mulan and Avatar a little while reading this book.
This book was golden with complexity and a deep understanding of humanity. I loved discussing it with the group and I loved that everyone absolutely loved it. I am so thankful for the deep and meaningful conversations that this book brought us. It is definitely a book to help others understand and grow.
Had a meeting last night with Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore discussing Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. The setup was very interesting and one I hadn’t done before. I was on zoom with one other person while the meeting was in person in the bookstore. The attendees in the bookstore had masks, so sometimes it was hard to see who was talking and it was also hard to wait for cues to speak up and know when to make a comment, but it was a good experience and very friendly. I was very happy with the experience since there isn’t many bookstores around where I live just like the other person on the zoom who lives states away had said about her location. It was a very accepting and kind group and open enough that someone was allowed to even bring a baby!
The meeting opened with the question ‘what is your useless talent’, which was a nice ice breaker. The meeting then went right into talking about how murderous the book was, which was a topic that the discussion kept going back to. It was interesting to hear everyone’s different opinions on that subject and how it ties in with the book.
Something that everyone loved that got everyone hooked right away in the book was when they had thought the book was going to be an enemies to lovers kind of book, but then the author tied up the revenge plot in the first fifty pages and there was still so much of the book left. People wanted to know, what now? Then were pleasantly surprised with all the other shocking turns the book took.
In the meeting everyone formed an inside joke together about the triangle, making a triangle with their fingers to represent the awesomeness of the polyamorous relationship in the book. That was fun and cute and brought joyous laughter whenever it was used.
We discussed how badly everyone wants the book to make it onto TV. The interesting part was the differences in opinions on what it should be rated, either R or MA, and how it should be displayed, a series or a movie. The biggest want from everyone is to see the unique fighting on screen. One of the attendees even had a very interesting want for the series to be made in Mandarin so that it would be more impactful and certain elements could carry more weight.
Lastly, we discussed what we want or expect from the duology. In my opinion, I thought that the second book needs to be just as extreme as the first one to fit in well, since the first book was so extreme. A few others are worried that since most of the time in duologies they don’t like the second book as much as the first, that they won’t like this second one. A real big fan of the book mentioned that the author is worried about writing the second book because they don’t want to let people down, especially since some of their fans have gotten tattoos and this is only their debut. Needless to say, everyone sounded excited to see what will be coming next. Maybe we will even get a whole different perspective.
Last night’s event was hosted virtually by an independent bookstore in North Carolina called Bookmarks presenting Meg Cabot talking about her newest romance book No Words. The reason I attended this event was because when I saw the name Meg Cabot, it was instantly recognizable to me, not from The Princess Diaries like it is for some, but because of one of my favorite series I had read when I was younger which was The Mediator. I was excited to see what Meg Cabot has been up to in all the years since I’ve read The Mediator series and what kind of books she typically takes her time to write now. What gave me the courage though to attend this event, even though I haven’t read Cabot’s newest book, was how Bookmarks marketed their event. They stated that it is not a book club event necessarily, but an event where the book would be discussed without spoilers and the attendees could dive into the romance genre in general. That way everyone would feel welcome even if they hadn’t read the book. That worked for me since I love talking about different genres in general!
First off, I was blown away by how many books that Meg Cabot has apparently written! The host of this event said that she has read 57 of Cabot’s books and that there are many more she still hasn’t read. That was amazing to me and I have to say that I loved the host for this event. You could tell that she was a super fan of Meg Cabot, carried the conversation so well, was enjoyable to listen to, had such great questions, and was able to get us all involved. I loved her testimony also to how much she had loved The Princess Diaries and how carries the character Mia in her heart forever.
After the discussion, I have to say that the book No Words sounds very interesting after hearing the author describe it. It is apparently about a writer who goes to a book convention and thinks that her arch nemesis isn’t going to be there, but it turns out that he is anyway. I loved hearing how this book had turned into the book it had turned into. Cabot had said that before covid the setting was going to take place at a firefighter convention but because she could not properly research that because of covid, she decided to have the setting at a book convention instead, which worked out very well for her because in this book she was able to incorporate advice, personal experiences, and even personal pains that she has gone through. One of those was how in the early 2000s herself and a couple other authors had been plagiarized.
One of the great pieces of advice that was apparently demonstrated in her book was that when at a festival or convention or anywhere, to always make sure you go to the parties and the dinners. Those are the places you meet great people. When she was a younger writer, she spent her time in her room writing instead of socializing and she wishes that she would have done that differently.
It was very cool to see in this conversation how many readers love when a book is full of diary entries, text messages, emails, and other forms of communication that help them feel even closer to the characters and help the story feel relatable to them. Personally, I have come across books that I like the text format back and forth, but never thought about it too much because it isn’t one of my favorite things in books, but it is always interesting to see what things get which readers most excited.
Of course, Meg Cabot talked about The Princess Diaries which always gives inspiration, especially since it had apparently been rejected everywhere in New York until finally years later the industry realized that YA books can have an entertainment element that could be specified for women readers. It was fun and really cool to hear her talk about her experience with the actress in the movie who played the main character and very settling to hear how she sees the movie and her books as two different universes.
I loved Meg Cabot’s passion! I have now added her newest book along with a few others on my wish list, even though I hadn’t been planning to at the beginning of this event since I’m not a big romance reader. Cabot was such a joy to listen to. I loved how funny she was and her great unique personality that wasn’t afraid to say what she wanted to say. I thank Bookmarks so much for putting on this event for us.