Readers on Reading – with Tessa aka Book Concierge

Tessa is another reader who agreed to be interviewed. If her recommended books are a good indicator, I think we would get on wonderfully! Welcome to A Writer of History, Tessa.

Please tell us a little about yourself: for example, background, age range, country, general book reading habits. If you’re prepared to share your name or your first name, please do. My name is Tessa. On GoodReads my user name is Book Concierge.   I’m recently retired and in my mid 60s.  I was born and live in the USA.  I read voraciously across a wide variety of genres. Basically, if it has words, I’m willing to read it.  In the last three weeks I’ve read science fiction, historical fiction, classic, cozy mystery, young adult, literary fiction, detective mystery, and a children’s adventure book. However, my favorite genre is literary fiction; I like a book I can sink my teeth into, that makes me think, that engenders conversation and discussion at book club.  I belong to six (yes, 6) face-to-face book discussion groups (moderate two of them), as well as several groups on Goodreads.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? For me the power of fiction is its ability to transport me to a different time/place/circumstance, and yet allow me to connect with the characters in a way that makes me interested and invested in what happens to them. It fuels my imagination. And also makes me more compassionate, in that I can understand the similarities between myself and a character who may be of a different race, ethnic background, societal culture, religion, time period, etc.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I like character-driven works best, but am game for a great plot with many twists as well.  If there’s anything I steer clear of it’s probably paranormal and romance works.  I’ve read some, and will probably read others in the future, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’. Landscape that is practically a character … as in McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove  or  Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River.   Clear and vivid descriptions that have me practically smelling and tasting the food or environment … as in Gibb’s The Beauty of Humanity Movement  or The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones.  And period details will transport me as in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? I’m not quick to hand out 5-star ratings.  I read about 180-200 books a year and in the last 12 months (Nov 2017 to present) here are the ones I’ve given 5 stars to:

A Gentleman in Moscow– Amor Towles   –  love the character and the premise. His room is small, his world is not.

Inside the O’Briens– Lisa Genova  –  loved how Genova informed as well as entertained. I had great compassion for this family.

The Radium Girls– Kate Moore  (NONfiction) – informative, inspiring, and infuriating.

We Band of Angels– Elizabeth M Norman  (NONfiction) – informative and inspiring. Love reading about strong women!

A Thread of Grace– Mary Doria Russell – beautiful prose; an aspect of WW2 I hadn’t read about before; brought me to tears

To Kill a Mockingbird– Harper Lee (re-read) – a perennial favorite; I’ve read it at least 20 times and will never tire of it.

Someone Knows My Name– Lawrence Hill – historical information I was unaware of; characters I cared about and cheered for.

Exit West– Mohsin Hamid – such a unique concept, yet focused on the characters.

Educated: A Memoir– Tara Westover  (NONfiction) – inspiring and horrifying. Looking forward to book club next week!

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café– Fannie Flagg (re-read) – These characters fairly leap off the page.

Of Mice and Men– John Steinbeck (re-read) – a book that never fails to touch me for its depiction of love and loyalty. I think this was the 4thtime I’ve read this; as well as seeing at least two movie adaptations and watching a live performance of the play twice.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I only buy hardcover first editions, preferably when I can get them signed by the author.  I tend to buy literary fiction only.  Virtually every book I read comes from the library.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I am lucky to live in Milwaukee Wisconsin where there is an excellent independent bookseller who knows me, knows my tastes, recommends books to me, brings in authors, and generally feeds my addiction to hardcover first editions.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. I don’t do this, though people tell me I should.

Many thanks, Tessa. I’m sure your thoughts will inspire others – both readers and authors. Have you read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah? I finished it recently and based on your comment on landscape as a character, I think you would enjoy it.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on Reading – Jill from Florida

Jill is a friend of mine. She’s a delightful woman who always has a smile on her face and is always ready to lend a hand. And she runs an excellent monthly book club discussion. 

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a 65 year old grandmother, very engaged in community service. I read 3-4 books at a time, switching between them like programs on a tv. I read a little of everything, fiction and non-fiction. I also moderate a book club in my neighborhood, with 8-40 attendees. We read a broad range of genres.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? Fiction inspires and informs us.  Fiction writers do extensive research for us, and then entertain us with a story woven around the events of the time, whether the events are real or fantasy.  Fiction gives us a way to escape, to learn and to dream.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I could never limit my reading to one genre.  I need to move between historical fiction, classics, thrillers, murder mysteries, sci fi, fantasy and various non-fiction.  I don’t really ‘steer clear’ of anything, although I sometimes find it difficult to suspend my sense of reality long enough to truly enjoy science fiction or fantasy novels for very long.  Occasionally, I object to reading too many stories of women dealing  with regimes like the Taliban or Saudi Arabia or too many WW2-based stories in a row.  I love to read stories with clever plots, complex characters, and interesting themes.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’? Details!  The devil is, I’m sure, in the details for an author. But for a reader, details pull our minds into the story.  What did the characters find on their dinner plates? What were they wearing? What was the room like that they were in?  What smells came wafting in the window? What were the background noises, the music?  How did the light hit the scene around the characters?  How were they reacting to all those stimulants?

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? Hillbilly Elegy [J.D.Vance]—it says so much about our current culture and societal problems.  The Accidental President [A.J. Baime]—I’m from Missouri and enjoyed reading about Truman, our Missouri president.  The Girls of Atomic City [Denise Kiernan]—I had no idea that the production of the hydrogen bomb was so big an undertaking and that an entire city was built up to support the research and production—and that it was a huge secret!  I also enjoy the writings of a Haines, Alaska writer, Heather Lende. She’s an obituary writer for the Haines and Anchorage newspapers and has published 4 or 5 books now. She has made me eager to spend a month or three in Alaska.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I am a big fan of several book critics and reviewers.  Elaine Newton and Jean Lewis give me a long list of books to look forward to each season! I also read the NYT book review section every weekend and check in with Book Bub and Goodreads online.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I have lived, most of my adult life, in big cities, and have lived among many people from other cultures. I enjoy books that let me explore those cultures more and  live vicariously with families all over the world, or who have come to the US from all over the world.  I’m intrigued with the experience of immigrants and refugees.

Is there anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on? I embrace technology and read most of my books on my Kindle. I love being able to carry my entire library in my handbag. I love being able to travel with stacks of books to read at the tips of my fingers.  I also love being able to find out about new books online.  I rarely hold a  physical book in my hands and find it awkward now.  Travel guidebooks, cookbooks and picture books are really all I have on my bookshelves now. I remember taking a book 20 feet up an apple tree, so that I could rest on a limb, against the trunk of the tree, munching apples and reading up in the leaves. When I was a child, my fondest dream was to live in a library.  I have been known to read all night long, only putting my book down as the sun began to light the sky.   Oddly, I didn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird until just a few years ago, and it might be one of my all time favorite stories now.

Many thanks for your insights, Jill. 3-4 books on the go at one time is too much for my brain!! Looking forward to our April book club discussion of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on Reading – Rosie from the UK

With over 200 books read each year, Rosie Amber clearly loves to read. She’s 50, lives in the UK and is an eclectic reader and avid book reviewer.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? For me, fiction provides, escapism, learning, armchair travel and enjoyment.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I prefer well written, well edited and well proofread books. A story with deep point of view, multi-layered characters and ones I can empathise with. I dislike dialogue-led books and stories that are all ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’. Info dumping is also a no-no. I also find an epic cast of characters too many to follow. It can mean that the author has filled the book out with characters rather than developing the main ones and making them of interest.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’Using deep point of view and multi-layering of characters help. As does a slower drip feed of info, enough to keep me interested. Bringing the characters to life on the page, is a must for me.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? Let Me Be Like Water by S.K. Perry – a contemporary novel that celebrated friendship found after a young woman reached great depths of despair. (Good on emotions)

The Inruder by P.S. Hogan –  a mild thriller where the focus is on an ordinary man rather than the popular police investigations that currently flood this genre. (Something different, I liked it)

River by India R Adams – magical realism. An emotion filled book. I would read anything by this author. (India writes for the YA/ Na genre, and is great at emotions)

Lancelot by Giles Kristian – an historical fiction set around the folklore of the mythical King Arthur. (Great if you are a fan of Arthurian legend)

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull – historical fiction set around the first women aviators. (Fascinating info about these early flyers)

Shark Bait by Matt Walker –  an action adventure thriller set in the UK. (Very compact and to the point which kept the pace moving briskly making it engaging and drawing me in.)

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? No.1 authors that I already know and like. No. 2 book recommendations from people or book bloggers that I trust. No. 3 books that I find on book blogs.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I tend to stick to books from authors who are English, American, Australasian, Western European or from author’s whose primary language is English. Or books written for those markets.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. I’m a book blogger, and have run my book review site for 7 years. I have a team of around 20 reviewers who read and review for the site. We can offer the possibility of multiple reviews for a book. Reviews will be posted on a minimum of 2 sites, they include, Goodreads, AmazonUk, AmazonUS, reviewers blogs and a copy also is posted on my own blog.

We review books across a wide range of genres. We pride ourselves on giving honest, unbiased, balanced reviews, which means that we do not guarantee that all our comments will be positive; however, any criticism will be constructive. We promote book reviews on Twitter each Tuesday encouraging the book community to use #TuesdayBookBlog – it trends regularly.

If there is anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on, please do so.  Publishing a book has been made easier with self-publishing and e-books. But any book should still be of the very best an author can make it, with multiple drafts and edits. Writing a book is hard, marketing and selling it can be harder. Never rush to publish.

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on reading, Rosie. You can find Rosie at her blog Rosie Amber, which offers clear and succinct reviews in a variety of genres along with a rating for each novel. Rosie’s site has been awarded a Top 100 UK Book Blog designation.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.