PLOT OR CHARACTERS? CAN YOU CHOOSE?

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Today’s Booking Through Thursday poses an interesting question:

 

Which is more important when you read — the actual story or the characters? I’ve read books with great plots, but two-dimensional characters, and I’ve read multi-layered characters stuck in clunky stories, and I’m sure you have, too. So which would you rather focus on, if you couldn’t have both?

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I love plots, subplots, and a story that moves seamlessly through the pages.  But without the characters—wonderfully fleshed out characters—it would all fall apart, like a meal without salt or spices.

So I choose:  Both!  But what I remember most about a story are the characters.  So I guess CHARACTERS win out, just a bit.

 

Here are some of my recent reads with great plot, with characters that drive it.  Click images for my reviews:

 

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The MC is Frieda Klein, the kind of character that hooked me from the very first book. She is quirky, compulsive, and has her obsessive habits that make her seem like someone I could know. A friend or colleague.

But the plot is suspenseful, twisted, and captivating.

 

***

 

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Set in England, Elizabeth Is Missing is that story, and as it unfolds in the first person narrative of Maud, the aging mother and grandmother, we are soon catapulted into her interior world, almost as if the losses are ours.

Without this great character, the plot would sink into despair, IMO.  We follow her and root for her.  She is the glue that holds the plot together.

***

 

Every month, I pick a favorite book, and at the end of the year, produce a list of them.  And what shines most about them all….characters!

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What are your thoughts?

 

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THURSDAY SPARKS: BORROWING? — AUGUST 15

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Welcome to another edition of Booking Through Thursday.  Today’s thoughts zero in on book borrowing.

I’ve asked before how you feel about lending your books. I’ve asked how you feel about libraries. But—how do you feel about borrowing books from friends? Is this something you like to do? Does it make you feel uncomfortable or rushed while reading? Does it affect how you feel about the book you’re reading, pressured into liking it?

***

I am not usually a borrower, but I do have one friend with whom I swap books:  she borrows one or more of mine, and she lends me one or more of hers.

There is no real pressure, as the books she borrows are books I’ve already read—I would never lend books on my TBR pile!—and the same goes for the ones I borrow.  And no, I don’t feel pressure to enjoy it.  And I wouldn’t borrow books that I didn’t think I’d enjoy.

Right now I have all four books in the Nora Roberts Bride’s Quartet sitting on my nightstand!

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Every time I consider picking one up, I stop.  Why?  Because I’m thinking I need to read them all, one after the other, and I have so many books on my stacks!  Silly, huh?

But I do plan to get to them sometime.  I think I’ve had them for a couple of years, because my friend lives five hours away, and neither of us has made the trip in awhile.

What about you?  Do you borrow?  Or are you squeamish about it?

THURSDAY SPARKS: FIRST PERSON OR THIRD PERSON VOICE — AUGUST 1

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Welcome to another Booking Through Thursday:  our opportunity to explore bookish topics.

 

Today’s Exploration:

Do you have a preference between “person” in the books you read? Do you prefer third-person to first-person? Or don’t you care?

And … why??

***

I’ve been thinking about that very thing lately.  It didn’t matter to me for years…and then suddenly, I started realizing that I connected to the characters more when at least one of them spoke to me in the first person voice.

Yes, it’s like I’m inside that character’s head.

The other characters can “speak” in third person, but with one of them in first person, I feel as though I have the inside track.

Sometimes I like having alternating first person voice.  Last month, I read a book about twins, and in this book, the author chose first person for only one of them.  I realized that, as I neared the end, I really disliked the other twin.  And then it hit me!  I needed her perspective to balance things out.

Here’s the book and my review:  Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld.  (Click for review)

 

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Here’s an excerpt from the review:  “Narrated in Kate’s first person voice, we see everything from her perspective, and because it seems as though Vi is the weirdest, most annoying person in the universe, it is suddenly clear to me that what is missing from this rambling tale, with its numerous flashbacks, is Vi’s perspective. I would have enjoyed seeing a second narrator (Vi) to lend a little balance to Sisterland: A Novel.”

 

So what do you think?  Interesting topic, isn’t it?  Come on by and chat.

THURSDAY SPARKS: HAPPY SPRING EQUINOX! — MARCH 21

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Welcome to our Spring Equinox edition of Booking Through Thursday.

Today we’re pondering spring reading:

Happy Spring Equinox, everyone! What book are YOU choosing to celebrate with?

***

I’m finishing up a Maisie Dobbs mystery this morning, but then I plan to plunge into this Women’s Murder Club book that seems appropriate, somehow:  Third Degree, by James Patterson, has a timely opening line:

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Opening Line:  It was a clear, calm, lazy April morning, the day the worst week of my life began.

Now doesn’t that look like an appropriate read for the Equinox?

What are you reading today?

THURSDAY SPARKS: MOOD READING — MARCH 14

messy bookshelves-memeWelcome to Thursday Sparks, where today we’re celebrating a Booking Through Thursday event.

Today we’re examining the issue of Mood Reading:

Does your current mood affect your reading? Affect your choices? I know there are plenty of books I enjoy, but only if I’m in a particular kind of mood–or books that can lift me out of a bad mood without fail. Surely I’m not alone?

***

Lately, my reading has been somewhat organized, as I’ve been planning out each week and blogging about it on Mondays.  But when I plan, I do consider my moods, as well as any review books on my stacks that need to get done.

Despite the “obligations,” therefore, I do consider my moods.  Some weeks must have mysteries, to elevate me from my angst or distract me from my issues.  And I also need something light in there to balance out the heavier reads.

This week, my list seems strongly weighted toward review books, but I purposely picked a mix that included something I knew I would enjoy:  a fun sounding read.

Click for my review
Click for my review

The View from Penthouse B is all about women at a certain time in their lives, having dealt with several crises, finding the joy and hilarity in their connections to the people around them.  Light and funny moments to balance out their troubles.

I also turn to authors I’ve enjoyed when I need to feel uplifted.  Like Wendy Wax’s newest book:  While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.

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I just finished this one last night, and it was the kind of book I needed for my current mood: I had a few worries and distractions that needed an escape.

And finally, I’m now reading this review book that is also taking me out of my everyday world, and enhancing my mood:

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The Tin Horse is a multigenerational story, but at its heart are secrets, a little mystery…and that feeling that exists in families and friendships.  About the intense, often fraught bonds between sisters, mothers, and daughters and the profound and surprising ways we are shaped by those we love. At its core, it is a book not only about the stories we tell but, more important, those we believe, especially the ones about our very selves.

See, even my organized weeks can cater to my moods.  And always there are books nearby that I can pick up, depending on my mood, even if they’re not on my list!  Because it’s my list…right?

So how do you deal with your moods in terms of your reading?

THURSDAY SPARKS: THEMES & BOOKING — OCT. 25

 

Welcome to another day of bookish delight, as we celebrate two events.

Theme Thursdays, hosted by Reading Between Pages, is all about finding themes in the books we read and enjoying the writing styles of the authors we explore.

Booking Through Thursday is like a conversation amongst bloggers in response to a prompt issued each week.

Come on by and join in the fun!

Theme Thursdays:

The themes we discover in our bookish explorations show us a bit about an author’s descriptive style of writing.

 

The theme for this week is

TIME , hour, minutes, seconds, duration etc.

***

Today I’m spotlighting a mystery from Lauren Carr:  Dead on Ice.

Snippet:  Slipping his arm across her shoulders, Joshua introduced her to Albert.  “Cameron and I have been seeing each other since this past summer.  She’s a homicide detective with the Pennsylvania State Police.”

Snippet:  “But it’s like he’s aged twenty years overnight.  I think I’m going to invite him to dinner after church this Sunday.”

***

Blurb:  Dead on Ice is the first installment of Lauren Carr’s new series (Lovers in Crime) featuring Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates. Spunky Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of Cherry Pickens, a legendary star of pornographic films, whose body turns up in an abandoned freezer. The case has a personal connection to her lover, Joshua Thornton, because the freezer was located in his cousin’s basement. It doesn’t take long for their investigation to reveal that the risqué star’s roots were buried in their rural Ohio Valley community, something that Cherry had kept off her show business bio. She should have kept her hometown off her road map, too—because when this starlet came running home from the mob, it proved to be a fatal homecoming.

***

Booking Through Thursday:

The flip side of last week’s …

Are there any good books that you read IN SPITE OF the cover and ended up wondering what on earth the artist and publisher were thinking to pair up a cover that so badly represented a perfectly good book?

And … if you didn’t like the cover, what made you pick up the book? The author? Assigned reading from school? A recommendation from a friend?

***

I don’t like the covers of the Stieg Larsson books, but I’d heard a lot about them…so I read the first one and I’m planning to read the second.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was definitely compelling…once I got into it.

 

And Shades of Murder, by Lauren Carr, had a cover that didn’t really grab me, either.  But I have enjoyed the books by this author.

 

And I didn’t really HATE either of these covers, but they didn’t compel me to pick up the books.

Scrolling through my reading lists for the past two years, I didn’t find that many covers that were unappealing or didn’t match the book.  Perhaps the covers are very influential in my actual picks!

What about you?  What pulls you in and keeps you reading?

THURSDAY SPARKS: THEMES & BOOKING — SEPT. 20

Welcome to another day of bookish delight, as we celebrate two events.

Theme Thursdays, hosted by Reading Between Pages, is all about finding themes in the books we read and enjoying the writing styles of the authors we explore.

Booking Through Thursday is like a conversation amongst bloggers in response to a prompt issued each week.

Come on by and join in the fun!

Sometimes on a Thursday, I am tempted to just unplug…after all, the week is almost done, and yet it’s not Friday.

But then I visit the hosts of these fun events and I have to participate.

What about you?  What are you hoping for today?

 

Theme Thursdays:

Every week, we are presented with a new theme; these theme give us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

The theme for this week is

RUN , jog, race, sprint etc.

***

Okay, the theme today didn’t fit the books I’m reading.  Can you believe I couldn’t find a single “run” in the first few chapters, so I gave up and grabbed A Different Kind of Normal, by Cathy Lamb, a book that was just patiently waiting on the stack.

Description:  From acclaimed author Cathy Lamb comes a warm and poignant story about mothers and sons, family and forgiveness–and loving someone enough to let them be true to themselves. . .

Jaden Bruxelle knows that life is precious. She sees it in her work as a hospice nurse, a job filled with compassion and humor even on the saddest days. And she sees it in Tate, the boy she has raised as her son ever since her sister gave him up at birth. Tate is seventeen, academically brilliant, funny, and loving. He’s also a talented basketball player despite having been born with an abnormally large head–something Jaden’s mother blames on a family curse. Jaden dismisses that as nonsense, just as she ignores the legends about witches and magic in the family.

Over the years, Jaden has focused all her energy on her job and on sheltering Tate from the world. Tate, for his part, just wants to be a regular kid. Through his blog, he’s slowly reaching out, finding his voice. He wants to try out for the Varsity basketball team. He wants his mom to focus on her own life for a change, maybe even date again.

Jaden knows she needs to let go–of Tate, of her fears and anger, and of the responsibilities she uses as a shield. And through a series of unexpected events and revelations, she’s about to learn how. Because as dear as life may be, its only real value comes when we are willing to live it fully, even if that means risking it all.

***

Snippet:

I tried to run after the baby, my mother wobbling behind me on her heels in shock, but two nurses stopped us at the swinging white doors of the ICU, grabbing our arms, holding us close, our hands outstretched toward the baby as we cried, we pleaded.  p. 10

***

Booking Through Thursday:

Quick–what are you reading right now? (Other than this question on
this website, of course.) Would you recommend it? What’s it about?

***

I am reading Click: An Online Love Story, by Lisa Becker.

The story is about a couple of singles, living in LA, who decide to try Internet dating to find “the one.”  That elusive someone who could be their love interest.

The story is narrated via e-mails, and while it took me awhile to get into the flow of this style, it is smart and funny and full of the comedies life presents when we’re putting ourselves out there.

Here’s the Amazon description:  Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with “My buddies and I were out drinking one night,” to the egotistical “B” celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC’s, FWD’s and inadvertent Reply to All’s, readers will root for Renee to “click” with the right man.

***

So what are you reading today?  Come on over and share…..

THURSDAY SPARKS: THEMES & BOOKING THROUGH THURSDAY — SEPT. 6

Welcome to another day of bookish delight, as we celebrate two events.

Theme Thursdays, hosted by Reading Between Pages, is all about finding themes in the books we read and enjoying the writing styles of the authors we explore.

Booking Through Thursday is like a conversation amongst bloggers in response to a prompt issued each week.

Come on by and join in the fun!

Theme Thursdays:

Every week, we choose a theme, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

The theme for this week is

WALK , stroll, pace, tread, step etc.

***

My theme today comes from Little Night, by Luanne Rice, an emotionally gripping family drama.

Clare Burke’s life took a devastating turn when she tried to protect her sister, Anne, from an abusive and controlling husband and ended up serving prison time for assault. The verdict largely hinged on Anne’s defense of her spouse—all lies—and the sisters have been estranged ever since. Nearly twenty years later, Clare is living a quiet life in Manhattan as an urban birder and nature blogger, when her niece, Grit, turns up on her doorstep.

The two long for a relationship with each other, but they’ll have to dig deep into their family’s difficult past in order to build one. Together they face the wounds inflicted by Anne and find in their new connection a place of healing. When Clare begins to suspect her sister might be in New York, she and her niece hold out hope for a long-awaited reunion with her.

A riveting story about women and the primal, tangled family ties that bind them together, Little Night marks a milestone for Luanne Rice—the thirtieth novel from the author with a talent for creating stories that are “exciting, emotional, terrific” (The New York Times Book Review).

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Snippet:  (A letter from the past has just arrived) – Clare walked into the living room; trying to keep her hands steady, she opened the letter and started to read:

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Booking Through Thursday

We all had to read things in school that we didn’t like … but what
about something you read for a class that you ended up liking (or
loving)? An author you discovered that you might not have found? A
genre you hadn’t thought about?

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It has been many, maaannnny years since high school, so I had to reflect on this for awhile.  Prior to having assigned reading, though, I mostly read books written by women, like Louisa May Alcott.  So I would say Ernest Hemingway would have been just such an author that I might not have tried.

But after reading For Whom the Bell Tolls and then A Farewell to Arms, I was amazed.

It was years before I read anything by him again, but recalling how I enjoyed his books then, last summer I picked up A Moveable Feast .  

(Click title/cover for my review)

My recent return to Hemingway came about because I’d read and loved The Paris Wife.

What about you?  What “assignments” led to discoveries for you?

THURSDAY SPARKS: THEMES & BOOKING THROUGH THURSDAY — AUGUST 30

Welcome to another day of bookish delight, as we celebrate two events.

Theme Thursdays, hosted by Reading Between Pages, is all about finding themes in the books we read and enjoying the writing styles of the authors we explore.

Booking Through Thursday is like a conversation amongst bloggers in response to a prompt issued each week.

Come on by and join in the fun!

Theme Thursdays :

Our themes give us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

The theme for this week is

DRIVE , Driver, Driven, Drove

***

I’m almost finished reading Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, by Haywood Smith, a story about a woman returning home after thirty years away.

Blurb:  Linwood Breedlove Scott’s life has officially hit rock bottom. Her husband of thirty years has run off with a stripper. The IRS has taken everything but her coffee table. And her hot flashes are four-alarmers. The only thing that could make being flat-broke and fifty any worse is having to crawl home to her parents’ house in Mimosa Branch, Georgia…which is exactly where she’s headed.

Lin’s barely prepared for the loony bin that greets her, from her controlling, eighty-year-old mother and shockingly blunt father to her long-suffering Aunt Glory and her deranged Uncle Bedford who is convinced a cannibal lives under the furniture. Nor is she ready for the instant love-hate attraction she feels for her handsome new next-door neighbor. Trying to navigate her way through the second act of her life with nothing more than a prepaid calling card, a broken heart, and plenty of Prozac, Lin’s about to discover that it’s never too late for old friends, new romance, the ties of family, and a second chance to survive it all on the road to becoming the person you were always meant to be…

***

Snippet:  So that Thursday, the day after the Fourth of July, I took the slow, scenic route through Mimosa Branch.  Driving into the old business district, I was struck that my hometown seemed to have come up in the world at least as far as I had come down. p. 1

***

Booking Through Thursday:

Do you find yourself thinking that the books you read would be good on film? Do you wish the things you watched on TV or in the movies were available as book?

Some really can’t be converted, of course, but some definitely can (and it’s not always the ones you think will work). There’s something to be said for different forms of media, but a good story is universal … or is it??

Good questions….I do often think of how I would love to see a book on film. Recently, I read Gone Girl, (click title for review) and I would definitely love to see it on the big screen.  What a thrilling film it would make.

I also finished reading The Meryl Streep Movie Club, and could already visualize the characters, the setting, and the drama at the theater.

I don’t usually think of films and wishing they were books…but if I thought of it some more, I’ll bet I could come up with some!

What about the rest of you?

THURSDAY SPARKS: THEMES & BOOKING — AUGUST 16

Welcome to another day of bookish delight, as we celebrate two events.

Theme Thursdays, hosted by Reading Between Pages, is all about finding themes in the books we read and enjoying the writing styles of the authors we explore.

Booking Through Thursday is like a conversation amongst bloggers in response to a prompt issued each week.

Come on by and join in the fun!

Theme Thursdays:

Our themes offer us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

The theme for this week is

LIGHT Glow, Beam, Shine etc

***

My snippet today comes from The Other Woman’s House, by Sophie Hannah.

The latest gripping psychological thriller from the internationally bestselling author of The Wrong Mother and The Cradle in the Grave

Featuring the return of detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, Sophie Hannah’s latest novel offers the spine-tingling thrills her ever-increasing fan base adores.

It’s past midnight, but Connie Bowskill can’t sleep. To pass the time, she logs on to a real estate website in search of a particular house, one she is obsessed with for reasons she’s too scared to even admit to herself. As she clicks through the virtual tour, she comes across a scene from a nightmare: a woman lying facedown on the living room floor in a pool of blood. But when she returns to show her husband, there is no body, no blood—just a perfectly ordinary room. With plot twists that will keep readers up all night, The Other Woman’s House is another unforgettable story by a new master of the crime novel.

***

Snippet:  Somehow, I get myself out of the room and close the door.  Better; now there’s a barrier between it and me.  Kit.  I need Kit.  I walk into our bedroom, switch on the light and burst into tears.  How dare he be asleep?  ‘Kit!’ p. 15

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Booking Through Thursday:

Jamie asks:

What was the most emotional read you have ever had?

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A difficult task:  deciding upon the most emotional read.  I know there were some real tear jerkers in my past, like Daphne Du Maurier’s books, or Gone with the Wind.

In present day, though, I had to search through my book reviews and found these books: (click titles for reviews)

Northwest Corner, by John Burnham Schwartz

Ninepins, by Rosy Thornton, was another emotional read, about the struggles, challenges, and dangers of parenting.

Searching my book lists,  another one springs to mind.  I first read it many years ago, but then read it again last year.  Still Missing, by Beth Gutcheon, was made into a movie (Without a Trace) that I watch over and over when I need a good cry.

As soon as I finish this post, I’ll probably think of more!  What made you cry?  Come on by and share!