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.
Attended yet another amazing book discussion tonight with some of my absolute favorite book people to discuss The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas hosted by Oxford Exchange bookstore.
To describe the love that the members have for this discussion group, one of the regular members attended with us while at the airport about ready to board her plane. It was great chatting with her before she headed to Salem!
One of the things we discussed about this book was how all of us enjoyed the length of it. For many of us, it was a breath of fresh air to read a shorter length book, and while some of us wish we had more, many of us were blown away at the character development that Victoria Mas could do for all the characters in such a short amount of time. The book while not feeling forced at all, was able to incorporate so many things and even mirror lessons within its subplots to the overall plot and the book itself. We all felt that it was a great feminist book showing women’s strength even in times when they had no control over their lives. Although the book was sad, and was such a harsh reality, it was empowering in a sense and gave validation to those who needed it.
An interesting question that was brought up was whether or not we thought that the Asylum was a good place for the people who really needed it. In reality, we decided that it wasn’t and it did more harm than good. That even if it did help a few people in some way, it hurt others way more, even their mental and physical health with the experiments being done on them. The fact that it was run by men who didn’t even understand women, especially in the burdens, hardships, and emotional sense really pushes the sense that there could have been a better place for women to actually grow and get better without feeling trapped.
One of the women who was torn up the most mentally and physically by the men in her life had one of the most impactful character developments in the story and it seemed like from our talk, everyone else had the same opinion about that also. It was very moving how a girl who most of us would have guessed would have turned out broken in the end, ended up one of the strongest of all and a symbol of strength for all the other women.
One of the things that is very beneficial when it comes to group discussion is that someone brings up something that others may have forgotten about. For example, the time period and how children, even boys, were not allowed to speak out. This helps in realizing that although at first, we may have been irritated with a character and their being compliant as a bystander, that it goes deeper than that, and we have to think about the time period and culture they were raised in.
Lastly, although there was so much talked about, something that I found so cute and I hear often enough to mention is how readers sometimes interact with the characters by speaking out loud to them or even calling them out for things. The most interesting part in that interaction is the satisfaction a reader gets if the character calls himself out for the same thing the reader just had. I have had that satisfaction myself! For example, when you call a character a weak fraud and then not too long later the character thinks about how much of a weak fraud he was. Apparently, I am not the only one who finds that such a wonderful feeling.
I was so thankful for another awesome event that made my night. This book is a must read that is perfect for discussion but does contain triggers. If you do not mind spoilers, feel free to read my review about it on Goodreads.
Oxford Exchange Bookstore hosted yet another amazing book club event featuring The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. Tonight’s book conversation with these amazing people turned into my favorite book conversation I have gotten to have so far with a group of readers.
Everyone in the book club LOVED the book, so that helped us all get to open up and gush about the writing, the author, the cleverness, the characters, and really dive down deep into the structure and plotting.
Here are some things I have said about this book in a Goodreads review before I dive into a little bit of the conversation we had and interesting things I had learned.
“-pieces of her writing and words shoved me through the page until I was there and had to blink away the vision, shocked that words could grab me so. Not talent, no. But the ability to craft a reader to a writer’s soul.”
“Addie, I found was a strong character! To never give in, to always push back, and to see the manipulation she was under until she started wearing thin. I also found she developed a lot by the end.”
“It then became more than just a deal. It became manipulation and displayed what a true narcissist is. It started with taking everything from her and giving her bits of him at a time. Starting with more until he worked to give her less. He made sure he was the only one who could give her what she needed. To hear her name. To have someone remember her. To make her feel a sense of real and self. Then he came less, making her crave him until she withered down and felt like she truly needed him and might have loved him. Slowly over many years he puts thoughts and words in her mind and mouth.”
In my honest opinion this book is a must read and must discuss book for young adults and new adults because it is a perfect example of showing what a toxic relationship is and how to see through all the manipulation. It really shows the difference between when someone actually loves someone and when someone only loves the possession or control of that certain someone instead.
Now going into our discussion tonight using my last point as a base, one of the topics we discussed was the narcissism. It was cool to see how the other members of the group were able to point out some things that I missed when it came to how he worked his manipulation. One of the things was how he used her own name against her and another was how he made himself her only touchstone to her past to make sure he was needed.
As always one of the most interesting things to me is everyone’s differing opinions to relationships in a story, the characters, and the plot. It seemed like everyone viewed Addie in such a different way and her relationship with Luc in such a different way also. Some saw it as love, some as lust, some as manipulation, and some as a game. It makes you wonder where each members’ opinions come from in their own past. The way I saw the relationship was a toxic one and personally I wanted her to destroy him, whereas others wanted them to end up together and for him to change for the better. But at least everyone could agree that the ending was absolutely perfect. Everyone also agreed that they were in a panic until the very end because they were worried the author was going to take this perfect book and end it in a less than perfect way.
Another interesting difference between the members was that most of the members did not like the character Henry, except one. I was one of those members that did not like him, but one of the members was extremely blown away by this character. What caught her attention and heart was how relatable he was to her. It really showed me that relatability is really important and can help people love certain characters and grab their hearts. It was so amazing to see this member vouching, standing up, and talking about this character with such a full heart for him.
There were a few other things that were brought up that I had never considered to think on until our collaboration. I will name two. One was that there was a shift in Addie from her looking to her past to instead looking to her future. That was an important and subtle change that was worked into the arc and an important observation that I will need to look out for in other books. The second one was how far Luc’s manipulation went by matching Addie with Henry and working his curse. Luc knew that no one really liked who Henry was before his curse and that Addie wouldn’t have either. He knew the same would have been for Henry when it came to Addie. By placing them together, Luc made it to where really, they only cared for each other because of their curses and because they could give each other the only thing they were needing at the moment because of him. Luc knew it would never be real love and he used that. That observation cut my heart deep.
This book was amazing and OE Book Club was just as amazing for giving us a night to discuss it. V.E. Schwab must be doing something right when everyone was absolutely in love with her book and no one had a single bad thing to say about it. We all even joked about ordering a special edition and reading it again for next year. I know I would.
Another great conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore and this time about The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The things we talked about were all across the board. There were so many amazing things about this book and a complexity to it that was a joy to be able to take apart and discuss. One of the topics that was discussed was why the impurity of the girls in the society was such a touching topic to many of us readers. We took the time to equate it to the life we live in now and how maybe in some aspects it hit a little close to home. We also discussed some plot holes that we found that were maybe only placed for convenience of the plot, and along those lines, we talked bout how the ending felt a little rushed and confusing. It is always nice to have an opinion but then to see that others were having the same problem. There are many things that we were trying to figure out, but we knew collectively that many of the questions may be answered in the next two books, since this book is the first of three. Although there were some parts that we were confused about in the book, everyone seemed to love the book and said they would pick up the next one. Which shows their trust for the author and the entertainment they received.
A very interesting thing that was discussed was how everyone pictured the shrieks. No one pictured them the same way! One pictured them looking like giant walking cockroaches, some like birds, one a tetradactyl, and a few like monsters that they had read or seen in other pieces of art. It is amazing what the mind can come up with when given only key points of description and how different everyone’s minds are.
Two of the most helpful things I had learned during this meeting was how readers sometimes seek comfort from books in a knowing what will happen way and how important to some it is to display the main character in a certain way so there isn’t a disconnect. I rarely read for comfort, so I was unaware that the reason why many love to read romance is for the familiarity and the comfort in knowing that everything will turn out to be happy and ok. As for the disconnecting, I had realized that I didn’t feel connected to the main character of this book at the beginning, until I experienced with her some of the trauma that she went through, but I didn’t really think into it why that may have been. One of the girls had brought it up and suggested that if we would have known more of her story beforehand that disconnection could have been avoided and we may have cared more and felt more emotion watching what the main character went through at the beginning. It was also brought up that too much focus was on the main character which also brought a disconnect. The main character to some felt too special. Rarely does the reader feel like the special one in life, so it is harder for the reader to be able to relate to a character in some ways when that happens. Also making the main character extra special takes a little away from the other characters making them seem like they don’t matter as much to the plot of the story.
I love discussing books and the best part is when a discussion is with good people and when it is with others who also love the book. Personally, I cannot wait to see what else Namina Forna will and can do. She may turn into one of my favorite authors. I appreciated this book and this event and loved how everyone seemed to love it also.
So I messed up and regrettably had to miss this event that I was looking forward to. I had thought that California time was two hours ahead from my time and then found out instead that they are two hours behind. So instead of the event being at 5pm my time, like I had thought, the event was going to be at 9pm my time. Normally, I would have attended anyway and wanted to, but I have to wake up very early this next morning for an entire day long bachelorette party in another state. Knowing that book events get me hyped up, I knew that I would not have been able to fall asleep until hours later.
Instead, I had tried to have discussion/ questionnaire time with my husband about this book because I was sad that I couldn’t discuss it with anyone else because this has turned into one of my favorite books I have read. It had almost everything I could have wanted in a book thanks to the amazing worldbuilding and complexity. Upon trying to discuss it though, I realized that it is too complex of a book to try to explain and discuss the book it in detail with someone who had not read it and doesn’t normally read. So that was very frustrating.
I have decided to post down below my Goodreads review I had done for this book. I am hoping that this coming Tuesday I will get to go to my other event because I desperately need a to attend a book event for my soul.
Warning: There are spoilers below about the book.
I loved In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland. I felt like it gave me just about everything I needed in a book. It gave me a dark world that was trying to survive, an awesome magick system, some decent vivid scenes of theatric gore, a complex plot, awesome dynamics, a main character that was different and intriguing, and pansexual representation!!!! It also gave representation to other members of the lgbtq+ community which I appreciated fully!
The beginning started with a great opening. In the opening the author was able to show the readers some interesting world building, beliefs that circulated in the book, and the different stances that the characters took on things compared to society.
The world building was great! I enjoyed the magick system tied into it and how they both came together or in some areas were not able to come together. I loved how the dead were forced guardians that drained the lifeforce of the bloodmages. I loved how the author had Rovan’s weaving tie into her magick. I loved the way this world wasn’t bothered by anyone of different sexual orientation as long as it didn’t get in the way of the royal line and that all of them were not scared to just be who they were. And I loved that there was a whole other dead world. The veil to protect against the blight was cool also, especially with how it tied into the plot.
I loved the main character. I loved how unique she was. It was so refreshing reading something with someone who acted the way she did. I also loved just about all the characters, although my favorite was Japha. I loved how flawless I felt they all were woven in their flaws, and I appreciated how they were not ashamed of who they were.
The relationships were such a joyride. I could not get enough of the dynamic between Rovan and her ghost Ivrilos. I also loved Rovan and Japha’s relationship and then how they all came together at the end as a family with once again all different dynamics since so much had changed since the beginning. It left my imaginations running wild in delight at all the possibilities and I cannot express enough how much I appreciated the poly relationship and representation.
The LGBTQ+ representation in this book was heartwarming. All the gender diverse characters all felt natural and not forced at all. It made the world feel more real, made the royal scenes and dynamic of the family more complex and interesting like they normally are in real life. And once again I cannot stress enough how much I loved that they had no fear of being who they were. They accepted themselves, which I feel is very important to young readers to understand and have role models for.
The plotting I thought was complex and terrific. I did not know what to expect and was led into twists and turns layered in hints that I wasn’t able to catch until after the reveals.
The imagery was so satisfying, especially at the end. I loved the vividness of the heart getting pulled out and when Rovan sat on the throne and the walls were melting.
The tension was amazing and kept the pages turning.
Let’s not forget to include how cool adding the dark page in was.
The ending was very satisfying to my heart. I loved the new dynamic between all the characters. I felt like all the loose plot threads got tied up into beautiful bows. I loved how I found if I took a step back it was all a story inside a story. I’m happy that after 400 years Ivrilos got his revenge and happy ending.
The only things I did not care for in the book was how Rovan seemed to care for and love Bethea at the beginning and I felt they had such a strong relationship, but then Bethea was forgotten about for a big chunk of the book. I would have thought it was just in Rovan’s character, except that Rovan kept thinking about her mom. Her mom and Bethea were both brought into the palace at the same time, so I didn’t understand how she could think about one person but not the other. But by the end it didn’t bother me too much since Bethea ended up getting a happy ending. The other thing was that after the dark page, I felt like things were rushed and the pacing was incredibly different than a large part of the beginning of the book almost like the author was running out of space and time. Making it a duology might have fixed that issue, but with how the author tied up the ending, it didn’t bother me too much at all.
I loved this book, and even with the few issues I had with it, I thought the author made up for those issues. The prose were fantastic, I was excited to go from page to page with all the tension, and the plotting was complex enough to keep my interest. I needed this book to take a break from the tropes I have been reading lately. I will be picking up the other book A.M. Strickland has out and cannot wait to read it.