Studious Saturday: meeting Jodi Picoult

studious saturdays

Welcome to another Studious Saturday post! I have been on holiday this past week which meant that I was able to dedicate a lot of time to reading. In addition, I was very lucky to get tickets to the last stop on the Jodi Picoult UK Book Tour which included a pre-signed copy of her latest book A Spark of Light, as well as a Q&A session and photos with her to follow. Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and I had been looking forward to this event for a long time. I really enjoyed the Q&A session in particular, where she shared some insightful details of her life as an author which I would like to share with you today.

The session started with a brief explanation of how and why this book was written and a short reading of the first chapter (which is also the ending of the book because the story is written in reverse). She revealed the backstory to A Spark of Light – the contrasting views of terminating a pregnancy that a woman may experience throughout her lifetime, justifying that one’s view on abortion may change when reaching 15, 30 and 50 years of age. Coupled with the current political controversies surrounding the topic in USA, she felt that now was the right time to write this book.

I was particularly impressed with the research that she carried out prior to writing the book. She interviewed 151 women who had terminated a pregnancy to find out their motives and analyse their experiences which she would later on use to develop her characters. Most astonishingly of all, no more than 10 of those 151 women agreed to be involved in the book with all of them choosing to be written in using a pseudonym. Jodi discussed the stigma surrounding  in the topic with eloquence and impartiality, something which I highly valued.

CYMERA_20181103_094403.jpg

Without going into too much detail of the Q&A session, I wanted to provide a quick summary of some of the most interesting and valuable subjects she discussed:

  • When writing a book, she usually begins by drafting several pages of a summary with a brief outline, although she already has the twists planned out. The outline of A Spark of Light was 48 pages, mostly due to the reverse timeline.
  • She discarded the first person narrative in A Spark of Light, which she used in most of her previous books, because there are 10 characters and she wanted to portray each story without confusing the reader.
  • She has one unpublished romance novel written under a pseudonym of a mixture of her children’s names. The editor’s feedback was that it was too well written for the genre.
  • Her favourite author is Alice Hoffman and some recently published books that she has read and recommends include Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak and Vox by Christina Dalcher.
  • Jodi usually writes about topics concerning society and there is an evident trend when looking back on her novels; she started by writing books where human emotions were explored, then proceeded to analyse relationships upon getting married, and finally decided to delve into controversial topics such as gun control and medical rights after her children were born.
  • She explained that once an author sells rights for a movie adaptation, they are no longer involved in the production of the film. She was deeply upset at the ending of the movie adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper and had previously warned the producers that the film would not perform well if they stray far from the original ending of the novel. She hopes that Small Great Things is a bigger success as soon as a screenwriter has been chosen, especially as there are talks that Julia Roberts and Viola Davis have been cast as the main characters.
  • Her next book will pose the question “Who would you be if you weren’t who you are today?” and hinted that elements of Ancient Egypt may also be included.

CYMERA_20181103_094531.jpg

The most exciting part of the event was meeting Jodi at the end and having my photo taken with her. As I read chapter after chapter of A Spark of Light, I realise that I also look back more on the points she discussed and start to analyse them in greater detail. It is another though-provoking and moving book and I am greatly enjoying it so far (review to follow shortly!).

This was her last event in the UK but for any fans based in Canada, her final stop will be Toronto on Monday and I highly recommend going!


Photo

Studious Saturday: disappointing books and managing high expectations

studious saturdays

Hello and happy Saturday! I am travelling a lot this weekend and have lots of reading planned (at this stage I think I might be more excited about the reading than the travel!). I have recently had incredibly good luck with picking excellent books several times in a row. This has made me think of several books where I had high expectations but was ultimately disappointed for several varying reasons. I won’t be writing full reviews about these books but I wanted to briefly comment on and explain my thoughts on these, along with how I manage my high expectations now.

Book Cover

The Four Streets Trilogy was a brilliant series and I found Nadine Dorries’ storytelling engaging and compelling. I was surprised and disappointed to find out that Run to Him doesn’t have the same flow and I could not connect with the characters either. Perhaps if it was developed as a full novel rather than a short story the plot could have developed in a different way more suitable to the writer’s style.

Book Cover

Stieg Larsson is perhaps one of the best storytellers in the crime fiction genre and I was excited to learn that there would be another book in the Millenium series. It is evident from the start that Lagercrantz’s writing lacks the same complexity and variety as Larsson’s so this book was mediocre at best when compared to its predecessors.

Book Cover

I realise that I am one of the few to dislike this book but unfortunatey it just didn’t meet my high expectatations. Prior to reading it I had heard a lot of excellent comments about its unique nature and was expecting it to shine in the dystopian fiction genre. Many others love it but I could not handle the slang and was driven away by the violence.

Book Cover

I had read very postive reviews on some of David Nicholls’ other books but decided to start with this one. I felt that the whole story was a continuous game of tag with both characters chasing each other with no progression. Neither of the characters were particularly likeable which also resulted in what felt like a very slow paced plot.

The most disappointing book I have read this year (and possibly ever), Go Set a Watchman failed in all aspects including pace, character progression and plot. It was weak and poorly executed when bearing in mind that one of the most renowned classics, To Kill a Mockingbird, was written by the same author.

Upon reflection, I realise that I am perhaps too critical which stems from my admiration for certain authors and my high expectation to deliver a book just as good, if not better, than the previous one.

So how do I manage my high expectations now? I try to put aside thoughts concerning the author or other readers’ views and focus simply on the novel in front of me. It’s  often challenging, especially with new books written by one of my favourite authors, but I find that I approach these books with a fresh perspective and enjoy the journey more.

Question

Which books did you find disappointing and why?

Studious Saturday: Why we should read books in a different genre

studious saturdays

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss

Welcome to another Studious Saturday post! This one is based on genres and why I think it’s a good idea to for us bookworms to step out of our comfort zone and try a book in a different genre. If you read my previous post, Three Bookish Things Book Tag, you may remember that this was one of my goals for this year and I can safely say that I have achieved it by recently finishing one of my Science Fiction choices, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading something completely different to what I usually choose and wanted to share my views on why I think you should do the same.

• Understand your preferences better

Even if we leave the new book half-way through or decide it is not for us, it would still work in our favour because we would now have a much better understanding of our likes and dislikes and the types of books we have no interest in reading. The perfect example is Classics – many of us were forced to read at least one Classic at school and we may have decided that we have no interest in this genre based on the book we read years ago. However, we may be surprised upon reading a different Classic at a later age that we appreciate the characters and plot much more. Alternatively, we may choose a Classic or any other book in a genre we are not used to and soon leave it. It might not mean that we should completely discard this genre based on just one book but at least we would be in a better position to analyse what didn’t work and why we may or may not return to this genre at a later stage.

• Getting out of a reading slump

We all know the dreaded feeling of being unmotivated to start a new book or carry on reading the book we recently started. In these tricky situations I would advise to try a new genre. Changing to something fresh and distinct is always advised in many other circumstances in life so why can we not apply it to reading? In fact, I believe that experimenting with a completely unexpected reading choice is a healthy way to restart our motivation and put us on the right path back to our bookcase/library/book shop. Personally, I was feeling frustrated with some of the Thrillers that I had read before I decided to embark on the new adventure of Science Fiction but shortly after finishing it I realised that I was ready to return to my favourite genre and attack it with a newfound enthusiasm that I was lacking before.

• Different genre, different perspective

For me, the main advantage of switching genres is the fresh perspective we would encounter, a concept that I realise is difficult to grasp if we are used to always reading the same kind of books. New characters, a change in pace and a completely different setting are just some of the aspects we may face and of course there could be many more depending on the degree of the change in genre. In my case, jumping from my usual choice of Thrillers and Crime to Science Fiction felt like a huge step because the setting is  completely contrasting to that of the usual Thriller. However, I would not be surprised to see less disparity between Thrillers and Horror or Romance and Young Fiction, for example.

Question

Is switching to a new genre something that you may consider or do you prefer to stick to genres you know you enjoy?

That’s all for this week! I will spend the weekend looking through my feed and reading all your blog posts as I was not able to follow your posts as usual because of a very hectic and busy week. Have a relaxing weekend and happy reading!

 

Studious Saturday: The impact of books in a series

studious saturdays

 

Happy Saturday! I have stumbled upon several reviews in the Book Blogging community this week on Lethal White, the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. They made consider the impact of books in a series and the key techniques used by authors to create a well perceived series. I have decided to explore these thoughts on this week’s Studious Saturday post and analyse these methods in further detail…

• Continuity in the story line

Something we all look for, perhaps even subconsciously, upon starting the next book in a series is the continuity in the story line. Many authors decide to disregard this aspect, especially those in a detective series where the crime scene changes each time. Nevertheless, continuity is a key technique used to remind the reader how the last book ended and flow into the story line of the new book. If a series doesn’t have any degree of continuity the plot may seem uneven and rushed.

• Character development

Most series include the same characters with perhaps a few new characters introduced in each new book. If there is no character development the plot appears stagnant and the reader may lose interest. However, that is not to say that characters must always be likable; in fact the most disliked characters are often unpopular because of the events leading up to a plot twist or milestone which indicates character progression. As characters grow and their traits are gradually revealed, the story line also matures and progresses to create a rich and engaging plot and advance the story line to the next book.

• Changes in pace

Pace has a crucial impact on how readers perceive a book and if they decide to read the complete series. In particular, pacing is often difficult to master depending on the genre. Adventure or fantasy series such as The Hunger Games usually have significant changes in the pacing throughout each book to encourage an element of surprise. In contract, the pace in a mystery or crime series often doesn’t change much until the very end where a plot twist is revealed to evoke tension and suspense. It is also important that the pace doesn’t change drastically between each book in a series to ensure that it doesn’t break up the continuity, although this arguably also depends on genre and I realise may affect certain genres more than others.

• Ending

Also linked to continuity, I believe that the ending of each book should reflect the writing and story line so far. It may not be justified to end a book in a series on a cliff hanger if there have been few hints of plot twists or surprises. On the other hand, an expected or neutral ending may not be as memorable and the reader may not be as willing to continue the series. However, depending on expectations, genre and other factors, a certain kind of ending may create a greater impact and interest the reader more.

• Does it measure up to the previous book in the series?

I think this is perhaps the most important point and something we all reflect on. Very often the first book in a series is considered the “best” for a variety of reasons. We may decide to skip the next books because they don’t measure up to the first one or even the previous one. This point consists of all the previous ones – continuity, pace and character development. If one aspect falters it could have a huge influence on our perception and therefore may not be as willing to set time apart to read the whole series.

Question

What traits do you think contribute to a successful series? Do you compare books in a series to each other and does this have an impact on the series as a whole?

If you have read this far then thank you for taking the time to consider this week’s reflections. I realise that this discussion post is more subjective and is not as balanced as it may be but I decided to post it anyway and open up this discussion to the community.