October 29, 2015

Bookish {and Not So Bookish} Thoughts :: Edition Four

This is a weekly meme hosted by Bookishly Boisterous where we write about stuff. I happened to see this via Birdie at Lady of the Manor and thought I'd join in.

1. Why hello there, my lovelies! October has been busy, busy for me, what with a vacation smack dab in the middle of it and lots of catch up to do after I was home again. So I've been scarce about these parts, but no worries! I hope to be back to my regular sporadic schedule now. :) And for the record? Vacations.......are THE BEST. Especially when they involve really good friends, bookshops, old buildings, glorious architecture, new cities to fall in love with, BEACH time, amazingly perfect weather, tea, and oh yeah, time with friends! It was wonderful, to say the least. And I did not want to come home again. *sadface* Alas, vacations can only last but for a moment and then they are a wistful memory from the past. Reminiscing about the fabulousness with my friends once home again does help though! Also, if you ever get the chance to visit Savannah, GA, I highly recommend it. :)

Beach reading is my favorite! :D

2. The other cool thing about vacations is that when they involve roadtrips, one tends to end up with hours and hours with which to be swept away in an audio version of a story! And guess which book I finally had the chance to listen to?! (There are some in the audience who will be thrilled with this info I am sure. :) The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien. Yes! I did indeed listen to the entire thing and really enjoyed it! I think I mentioned last year, when I finished The Hobbit, that I wanted to listen to the trilogy sometime. I found the audiobooks at the library and now book one is done (getting ready to start book two, The Two Towers, in the next couple days I hope)!  And let me just say this about that....Sam. Is. AWESOME. I love Sam. I really, really do! Since I've watched all the movies and loved Sam already, I knew that book-Sam would probably make me love him more. And he did! There really aren't enough words to talk about how awesome book-Sam is. When I finally get around to writing my review, I am positive I will have more to say. Until then, just know that Sam is one amazing little Hobbit who is deserving of all the bestest things Middle Earth can offer! :D

3. One thing I quickly figured out about Mr. Tolkien though? He likes his details. He loves his details, actually. And I've decided that for my first read-through of the series (because I'm pretty sure I'll want to read them again :) going the audiobook route is definitely the best for me. I think I'd have a tendency to want to skim over some of the many details that go on for pages and pages. (I'm assuming.) (I acknowledge, as someone who hasn't really skimmed through the actual books yet, that I could be wrong.) (But I'm pretty sure I'm right.) (Maybe.) But listening to all those details hasn't bothered me yet, so there you go. Audiobook it is!

4. I apologize in advance, but this news needs to be shouted. MY FRIEND AMBER HAS A NEW STORY PUBLISHED!!! YAY!!! :D She has a novelette out called While You're Awake, and it is delightful! I say this as someone totally not biased at all. ;) But truly, it is a sweet and fun story. For those not in the know, a novelette is like a mini short story, so it's not a long read. But it's just long enough to make you smile and make your heart happy dance! So you should definitely click over to Amazon (right here) and check it out. My review should be up soon! (Amber has a Pinterest board with fun little tidbits about the story, check it out here.)

5. As always, I so far behind on my reviews. *big sigh* But am determined to get them caught up! Soonish.....I hope. But until that happens, here's a few stories that should be on your radar. The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (releasing next week!!!), Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist, and Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis (I mentioned Stitching Snow in a previous post and it is equally as wonderful as this second novel by Ms. Lewis, just fyi. :) Also The Gifting series by K.E. Ganshert is quite lovely as well!

132069006. And the bestest news of all?! Winter is coming!!!!! Only two weeks left, y'all! I AM SO EXCITED. (As if you can't tell, right? ;) This waiting for the final book has been torture. Pure torture, I tell you! I am beyond ready to find out what happens next to Cinder and the gang. I am most certainly ready for Queen Levana to get her comuppance! Two years is way too long to make us poor readers wait for this book. Nov. 10th cannot get here fast enough!

7. Since that torture is almost over, I will now happily end this exclamation-point-filled post. I hope y'all have been doing well! Read anything amazing recently? Do let me know, I am always up for adding to my towering TBR. :)

October 5, 2015

When I Really Like a Story...

So I recently discovered this series that a fellow blogger has created. Heidi asks other readers what three things make a good story. It got me to imagining how I would answer such a question. As my mind wandered hither and yon, I decided my own blog post was a must and here we are! :)

The more I thought about it however, I decided I needed to clarify something before sharing my list. Namely, there is a significant difference between a "good" story and one that I will read over and over and fall in love with every single reread. For example, I can acknowledge that Dune by Frank Herbert is a good story. It's well-plotted with amazing world-building and certainly beloved by many! But it's not one I ever imagine rereading. So it's a good story, just not a great one in my opinion. Yet I know there are those readers that absolutely LOVE that book. See what I mean? Thus, when trying to create this list of things that make a good story, I decided that it's much more true to say these are the things that make a story one that I will pick up again and again.

Now then. Let's get to it, shall we? (I should note that Heidi only asks for three, but I couldn't limit myself thus.) (Which is no surprise, right? I do love to analyze! :)

Characters I Can Connect With and Root For

This is probably the biggest make or break aspect of a book for me. As I noted in my review of Dune, I couldn't connect with any of the characters, which truly disappointed me. And made me realize how important characters are to the story. I mean, yes. We all know characters are important! (I'm so great at stating the obvious, aren't I? :) But reading that book really opened my eyes to how HUGE this is for me. If I can't connect with at least one character (and preferably a main one), if I can't root for the hero or heroine in some way, if I can't feel their emotions, it almost ruins the story for me. Not completely! But almost. I need to understand the character at least a little bit in order for me to want to know them better.

Great Relationships and Chemistry Between Characters

This one kind of goes along with the first one, but I thought it was worth its own description. Relationships, whether they are friendly or romantic, will keep me riveted. Especially if it's a relationship that starts out a bit antagonistically and then grows into a mutual friendship. Watching two characters learn to respect and love each other can be such a delight! One such example is John Thornton and Nicholas Higgins from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Of course, my opinion of these two is hugely impacted by my love of the adaptation and Richard and Brendan's portrayals! ;) Watching their respect and understanding of one another grow agonizingly slow makes the resulting friendship worth every single frustrated moment I had. I was rooting for both characters individually from the very beginning, but when they grudgingly began to note the goodness in the other, well....that just made me love them more! And the chemistry comes in when I can feel the friendship/relationship growing right along with the characters themselves. I suppose it's that I love to be swept away into the characters and their story, so I want to feel their emotions.

Good Writing

I know, this should be an obvious one that doesn't need stating. But I'm going to state it anyway! Because while I know that what constitutes good writing to me may be vastly different to you, the writing style of an author makes a big difference on whether I'll decide to read the book or not. I am so grateful that you can sample ebooks for this very reason! (Even if I do wish some of the samples were just a few pages longer. Especially if half the sample is made up of the title page and chapter index! *frustrated sigh*) Some writing just flows so naturally, while others do not. And I can typically figure out whether I'll be able to stomach an entire story by how the first chapter reads. Sometimes I'm wrong! A few books can start rather slow and off-putting, but then gather speed and sweep me away by the middle. And sometimes the beginning is awesome, while the middle and ending are horrible. Yes, it is completely subjective, but still an important aspect of a book for me.

Happy (Hopeful) Endings

Reading is a bit of an escape for me, so I require happy endings for the stories I love! Reality is hard, people. It can be rough and miserable, we all know that. (Of course, it can be happy too! But that's not my point here. :) As such, why would I want to read about the same miseries and impossibilities in my books? If you like to do so that's great for you, have at it. But I much prefer to read a story that reminds me of the happy moments in life. That after all the hard and yuck the characters have dealt with, happy still wins in the end. I should note that my definition of a happy ending doesn't mean that no one is sad. (*Spoiler alert*) In Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember a main character dies, but I still consider that one having a happy ending. Because the other character grows and learns and becomes who he was meant to be because of knowing her. I just don't like the endings where everyone is dead and/or miserable. An ending with no hope. I like hopeful endings!

Romantic Storylines

Yes! I admit it! It's shallow, but I admit it. I like romance in my stories. It doesn't have to be the main focus, I'm totally okay with the romance being a secondary plot, but I do love it when there's a bit somewhere in the story. I can (and do!) have some favorite books that have hardly any romance anywhere in them. For instance, The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner has very little. In fact, the first book has zero and the second barely mentions it. They are not what I would term romantic stories at all. (It's really more alluded to by what isn't said, than what is. Brilliantly written, in my opinion! :) Alas, what can I say? Give me a swoony hero and I'm a happy reader! So there.

What do you look for in stories you love?



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