Book Event

*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!

Book Event

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.

Book Event

Attended an event this evening with Oxford Exchange Bookstore to tackle in discussion the book The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henerson. It was such a great night to talk about this book which sounded like it definitely left us all unsatisfied and needing some real creepiness to talk about around Christmas. It was fun at the end to try to figure out a creepy winter book to read for December.

I am so thankful for this group of people we had tonight in the book club. It is hard when you read a book and you wonder if it is only you who saw certain things wrong with the book you read, but when a group of people come together who have the same issues with the same book, it gives you a certain satisfaction to know that your mind isn’t entirely broken.

One of the many things that we agreed on was how the book felt rushed. Absolutely everyone wanted more. We all felt like there was not enough world building, that the consequences for people were not enough, and that the book was too soft when it promised to be stimulating and moving in some way. Also, everyone wanted and needed to know and learn more about the witches.

No one liked the ending. It had confused everyone when it came to tying up the plot the way it had because the book had not led the reader in that direction at all. We all felt that things needed to be clearer throughout the story to make a more impactful ending and that the author needed to take the next step and dive deeper into things on multiple occasions. The book was set up with the opportunity to unpack so much, but instead broke away from things before they were thought into.

It was interesting though how this book tackled witches compared to many other witch books. This was brought up in conversation and it was something that I hadn’t even realized. This book was a nice break and gave us a view of someone looking at witches instead of looking into them. What I mean by that is that it had the main character getting affected by witches instead of really interacting with them. So that was a cool way to approach the witch trend.

I love to see differences in readers. Some of the differences in our opinions were about the romance in the book. I was not a fan along with a few others, but some mentioned that the romance kept them going and kept them wanting to read the book. What everyone agreed on though is that no one likes romances that go from zero to one-hundred within a few pages, which had happened in this book. Another difference was that although no one liked the explanation of the main character’s mom, they didn’t like that scene for two opposite reasons because they each viewed that scene in two completely different ways.

Lastly, I think it is amazing when everyone thinks that a certain scene was the most impactful one. The second labor scene was a favorite of everyone’s. It is always so incredibly fascinating how so many people can have different opinions about scenes or parts in books, but then other times everyone can come together to agree that a certain thing was their favorite part and they all thought and felt the same way. This is why I love reading and discussing!

During this event it sounded like we were all pretty much on the same page when it came to this book, which was fun to dive into and really just vent about how frustrating we were about not being satisfied after reading it. Thank you so much for the fun night Oxford Exchange!

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

I got the opportunity to have another joyous time having a deep conversation, pulling apart, and diving into the book The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune with the Oxford Exchange Book Club. The main directors of the book club were excellent once again in directing the conversation. The first topic was about the cover and how it may or may not represent the book and how some of the readers used it as a reference. This particular cover was used by multiple of our readers. We also dove into the hard question of what exactly defines YA and what category this book falls into. It was nice because working together the majority had decided that although it is an adult fiction that reads as a middle grade book, it can fall into the category of YA because it is a book that can be read by everyone depending on a wide range of maturity.

It was very interesting to see how many people loved so many of the characters and had a hard time picking which ones were their favorites, which was a similar issue that I had. Secondary characters even came out as being favorites to some and characters that didn’t completely speak to me spoke the most to others. Discussing this is always one of my favorite parts about book clubs. I love being able to see and hear how different everyone is and the different things they had taken away from the book.

Going deeper, the OE had us look at what the book represented as a whole, what issues, and what groups it may have been trying to tackle in representation. I think the author would have been enthused at how talented many see him in being able to cover a wide range of topics and issues.

Another take away I got from this book event was the question on why the ending of the book or any book may be satisfying for some but not for others. Not just that, but should we always be satisfied with the ending of a book? When does full satisfaction take away from the world and from the message of the story? What truly needs to be addressed at the end of a story and what can be left out? The ending fully satisfied some, while it didn’t others. This is interesting because it brings forth one of the most interesting questions of when should an ending be judged on how it is received compared to what was right for the story.

Thank you so much to the Oxford Exchange Book Store for giving us another terrific event.

Book Event

I got to attend the virtual Fiction, Fantasies, & Epics Book Club event yesterday evening discussing The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner hosted by Oxford Exchange Book Club. First off, I have to say that I had a blast. The hosts were very welcoming and started us off with an intense ice breaker question that had to do with the book. Then Sarah Penner got to join us and we were given the opportunity to listen to her answer some of the questions that we had pertaining to her book and herself as a writer. I learned A LOT. But one of the most interesting things I had learned for myself was how much editing changes can happen in the book publishing process. I have always been curious to hear at what level personally it can happen, so I was happy to get to hear an experience pertaining to that from the author. To know that an ending that the author first had in mind can completely change along with the fate of a character because an editor believes it needs to change is just so interesting to me and cool. I love that authors can get help from editors that know the industry better than they do.

Another thing that I had learned and found interesting was how different every reader is. The Lost Apothecary in my opinion attracted such a wide range of readers, which I easily saw in the book club last night. This showed me how each reader pays attention to and focuses on such different things in the novels they read. What upsets some people, others may not even care about. What intrigues some people, others may not find an interest in at all. It was so interesting to see the different levels people took the book in emotionally and also what some readers clung to from the story and what others didn’t.

I had an amazing experience. Someone brought the symbolism of a bear to the discussion and many worked together to figure out what exactly that symbolism could have meant. The hosts were kind enough to make sure that they would check in with the author about that question to give the ones who really wanted to know that contentment. We discussed easily forgotten characters, which was nice to try to figure out why they were so easily forgotten. I felt very welcomed and I loved the group. I had walked away all smiles and had felt so filled up inside that I tried to stay away from anything that could bring my mood down so I could keep that feeling into sleep. 😊