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.

Book review: An American Family by Jackson Baer


Book Cover

Title: An American Family

Author: Jackson Baer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Publication date: 1st October 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Isaac Childs has the perfect life—until that life comes crashing down when his wife Ramie vanishes.
Isaac learns that his wife’s disappearance is the ninth in a string of similar cases. In the wake of this news, he struggles to cope, to be a good father to his daughter and college-bound son, and to reclaim something of an ordinary life even as he conceals his troubled past.
After the FBI makes an arrest, and his wife is presumed dead, Isaac begins to move on. Yet will his secrets catch up with him? Has he conquered his vices for good? And what of the FBI’s theory that the case isn’t completely resolved, after all?”

My review:

This book offers something to every reader. It is an excellent choice for those who appreciate flawed characters and perfect for anyone interested in an engrossing mystery. It becomes apparent as the story line progresses that the characters are vital to moving the plot along and simultaneously, as the plot develops, we discover secrets and imperfections of each character that transpire into an appealing and exciting story. I really admired the powerful use of both these writing techniques and I feel the author accomplished this exceptionally well.

Although all characters were multilayered and engaging, I could not find myself interested enough to follow their conversations. Perhaps it is based on my personal preference on dialogue, but their discussions felt strained and very matter-of-fact which attributed to several forced interactions. Nevertheless, the descriptions in between and after the direct speech were eloquent and concise. I would have preferred a more prominent emphasis on this as the period between Ramie vanishing and Isaac meeting Julia felt somewhat rushed. However, I also realise that this was intended to describe their accidental meeting and therefore the focus soon shifted to their life afterwards.

Few thrillers manage to incorporate emotion and grief in the story line and those that do often fall short of inducing empathy in the reader. In contrast, An American Family shines in this field and from the first page we are introduced to a mix of emotions from despair to heartbreak. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending, although it seemed somewhat implausible, and can safely say that this book left me with a sense of relief which was comforting after the rollercoaster of a ride we travelled on.

An American Family is out next Monday 1st October!

Many thanks to the author for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Studious Saturday: The Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Many thanks to Beth at About a Book Club for tagging me! Go and check out her answers and hop over to her blog!

This Studious Saturday post will be a tag.

What is The Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring. Once nominated, the blogger is required to write a post in which they:

• Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog.

• Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them.

• Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.

• Notify your nominees and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.

studious saturdays

Here are my answers to Beth’s questions:

1) What has been your favourite book of the month so far?
I have to go for The Fix by David Baldacci. This book was published last year but I started reading it at the beginning of this month and finished it in 3 days. I love the Amos Decker series and highly recommend it to any readers who enjoy a fast-paced detective mystery.

2) Name a book that you have recently bought solely from a blogger’s review.
I am currently reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers after buying it when I read Kristin‘s review and I’m really glad I did. It’s entertaining and adventurous and even though I don’t usually read Sci-Fi I’m really enjoying this one!

3) Do you read multiple books at a time? Or just one?
I usually read just one on my kindle unless I also have a paperback that I’m also reading in which case I alternate between the two.

4) Name a book that you were disappointed by/felt had been over-hyped.
I was disappointed by Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I expected another thought-provoking read with controversial topics discussed but I thought it was average and it left me feeling empty.

5) Give an ‘unpopular opinion’ on a book/series that everyone else seems to love.
I don’t think that The Girl on the train by Paula Hawkins is as great as others make it out to be. It was interesting but I found it difficult to relate to the main character and follow the story line until the end.

6) What book have you read the most times cover to cover?
I read To Kill a Mockingbird several times at school and also a few times afterwards as well and it never disappoints. It’s usually the first book I recommend to anyone who is looking to read a Classic.

7) Favourite cover art of a book you own (include a picture, if you can!)
I love the cover of The Sisterhood. It’s a simple but beautiful design which also goes perfectly with the story:
The Sisterhood

8) Name a stand-alone book that you WISH had a sequel.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

9) What setting of a book would you love to visit?
I’d love to visit the circus described in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. There would be so much to explore!

10) Name something that bugs you about the book blogging community.
I would say the international blogger debate. I have seen so many discussions lately on this and I can relate to many points made.

11) Name something you LOVE about the book blogging community.

I love how inclusive and welcoming the community is. We all have different tastes in reading depending on age, genre, location etc. but we also all share our love of books and it’s so wonderful how book bloggers are always so supportive and helpful.

I nominate:

Recipe and a Read

Umut Reviews

Excuse my reading

Drizzle and Hurricane Books

Books and Dachschunds

Books and Me!

Brunching Bookworms

Not-so-modern Girl

Bookathon

Between the Pages

Dee Reads Things

My questions:

1. What was your favourite book when you were a child?

2. Name a book that you wish was made into a film/series.

3. Do you prefer to buy or borrow books? Why?

4. What language do you prefer reading in?

5. How do you get over a reading slump?

6. What would you say to your favourite author if you ever get the chance to meet him/her?

7. Name a character that you feel could have been developed more.

8. Which book that you read this year has pleasantly surprised you?

9. Share a quote that you like from the book you are currently reading.

10. Imagine that you meet your favourite character by chance. How do you react?

11. Has any book ever made you cry? Share a passage or your thoughts on it.

Thank you for reading my answers and I hope those of you nominated enjoy this tag. Please don’t feel obliged to do it but if you do decide to publish the award, please tag me in the post because I would love to read it!

 

Book review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Book Cover

Title: The Coordinates of Loss

Author: Amanda Prowse

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 25th September 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✰

Summary:

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.
In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.
Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

My review:

I decided to read this book after finishing Anna by Amanda Prowse which I really enjoyed. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. She chose a very complex subject matter and explored it through Rachel and James’ relationship after their son Oscar disappears at sea. Grief is a particularly difficult topic to discuss which I believe she handled well with a lot of carefully chosen words and phrases. Most notable of all were the different stages of loss that Rachel struggled through which I felt were especially well documented through the first person narrative.

Character development plays an important part in books written in this style and I must say that we saw all characters grow through expressing their thoughts and reflecting on the past. Cee-Cee was a very pleasant character, often driving the plot forwards and supporting Rachel with the healing process. Her empathy and kindness is so comforting and she quickly became my favourite character.

The Coordinates of Loss is an emotional and poignant book, perfect for readers who are after a true to life story and are keen on exploring family dynamics. However, it should also be noted that this book lacks a fast-paced plot and does not provide any relief until the very end, which is something I believe many readers may also be looking for.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Studious Saturday: My favourite places to read

 

studious saturdays

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are” – Mason Cooley

Hello and welcome to another Studious Saturday post! I am one of those people that can read almost anywhere. I was almost tempted to pick up my book when I was waiting my turn for the dentist! This made me think about some of my favourite places to read and I decided to create a quick discussion post to discuss in more detail. So in no particular order my favourite places to read are…

• On public transport

If you are from the UK, you probably know how awkward it can be locking eyes with the person sitting opposite you. This doesn’t tend to happen in Spain but even so, I much prefer reading my book, especially on my commute to work or when I know a long journey is ahead.

• On a flight

I guess this is linked to public transport although the journey tends to be longer meaning more time for reading. I sometimes get through a whole book when flying and I love the feeling of completely ignoring anything and everything else on the plane and getting lost in the story.

• In the park

The park is probably my favourite place to read, especially on a sunny day with a slight breeze. Unfortunately we don’t get many days like this here in Madrid but when the odd day suggests the perfect weather I love to pick up my kindle and head to the park.

• At a café

On gloomy days I find nothing more appealing than walking to a café, making myself comfortable at a table by the window and starting a new book. Sometimes hours pass by and I finish one book and start another without even thinking about leaving.

• At home

My usual reading place is my bed or sofa, both of which are comfortable enough to get lost in a book, sometimes a bit too much when the plot is engrossing enough to keep me awake into the small hours of the night. Then I find myself tired at work the following day but I don’t mind too much because this is usually how I discover my favourite authors and books.

Question

What is your favourite place to read and why?

Have an amazing weekend and thanks for reading!

 

Book review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Book Cover

Title: The Family Next Door

Author: Sally Hepworth

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 22nd March 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

My review:

I feel hesitant posting this review after reading other readers’ thoughts on this book and I think I might be one of the only ones to give it an average rating. This is a quick and engrossing read, similar to other domestic thrillers with confident and headstrong female leads. The story line follows three neighbours from Pleasant Court, a suburb in Australia, who each hide their own secrets, unaware that a huge discovery is about to be made by their new neighbour Isabelle. The pace is steady and secrets are revealed with purpose and in the right doses throughout the book. Despite my initial concerns, the subject matter related to each secret is heavy but unpredictable and very well analysed by the author who delves into each character, narrating their story with close attention to detail.

My main issue with this book is the interaction between the neighbours which I found to be very superficial and gossipy. Some of the themes discussed were dark but this was usually portrayed in the narrative where characters’ thoughts were revealed, unlike the conversations at the suburb which often felt superfluous and repetitive. I understand that perhaps this is also telling of the different ways we hide information from our peers compared to our thoughts when we are alone, but the dialogue left me feeling disappointed and sometimes even irritated. I could not relate to Isabelle or any of the other women and was not impressed by how uninteresting their husbands were portrayed either.

Overall, this book fell a little flat for me and made me question some of the characters’ decisions which I don’t believe was always intended. However, the pace was good enough to draw me into the world of Pleasant Court where relationships are tested and important topics such as parenthood, marriage and mental illness are discussed. It is a quick and entertaining read and perfect for anyone looking for a domestic thriller narrated from a woman’s perspective.

Studious Saturday: How I choose what book to read next

studious saturdays

 

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking” – Haruki Murakami

Welcome to another bookish Saturday post! Now that I’ve had the opportunity to explore the book blogging world a little more and have published several book reviews, I thought it would be the perfect time to expand my horizons and what better way to do so than try writing discussion posts? After last week’s Three Bookish Things book tag which I greatly enjoyed, I decided that I would start a theme here at Facing the Story called “Studious Saturdays” which would include a tag, discussion or list posted every Saturday with a new topic. Today I plan on discussing how I choose my next book in my constantly growing TBR list.

• Recommendations:

This is by far my favourite method. If a friend or family member recommends a book they read and loved and the description sounds like something I would enjoy, it goes directly to the top of my TBR pile and I usually start reading it immediately after finishing my current book. I am lucky to share the same reading preferences with my family and most of my friends so we are often lending books and discussing our thoughts afterwards.

• Ratings:

This used to be more popular a few years ago when I was a student and books wasn’t yet a commonly discussed topic between my friends so I resorted to Amazon and Goodreads top rated books in genres I liked in order to choose my next book. Needless to say, it didn’t always work for me and on several occasions I was disappointed with my choices. This made me realise that just because one reader may enjoy a book within a genre we both love, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the topics discussed in that book would appeal to me as well. Character development and pace is extremely important to me and I was often frustrated with the lack of these writing techniques in books I chose to read because of others people’s ratings. I am not so easily influenced by ratings any more and instead rely on other means when picking up my next book, though ratings are still a factor I consider on occasions.

• Opinions in the book blogging community:

A much more recent discovery, your opinions are something I really value. Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been so engrossed in reading your reviews, tags and discussion topics that I have since then realised how quickly this became one of the main aspects when choosing my next book. I’ve discovered new authors and special books and, unlike ratings and reviews on Amazon, I find I can relate to other bloggers’ opinions much more.

• Read once and loved authors:

Sometimes I stumble across a book written by an author whose writing style I love for one reason or another so I decide to read previous books that they have written or keep an eye out for any future books published by them. I find this method usually works well, though I am often inclined to wait or read another book in between so it is not necessarily how I pick up my next book even though I may add it to my TBR pile. However, I must say that if I decide that I loved the book that much, I have to get my hands on the author’s next book right there and then. This happened with Khaled Hosseini, one of my favourite authors, and it’s also how I discovered my love for Jodi Picoult novels. (Having said that, I am so excited to read A Spark of Light and Sea Prayer, who’s with me here?!)

• By pure chance:

This usually depends on my mood or other circumstances, such as not having any books around me which happens now and again. I don’t usually stray from my TBR list because it’s so long that it would take me years to get through and deciding to read another book not previously present in the list is nonsensical for me. However, if a book I’ve not heard of before is discounted or suddenly appears on Kindle Unlimited I sometimes decide to buy it, though I may not read it straight away. In the latter category fall books that I have to pick up, often because my kindle is out of battery or not with me at that moment. I am lucky that my parents’ and grandparents’ house is full of books in different languages so when I’m visiting I sometimes pick a book at random and I’m usually not disappointed with my choice.

Question

How do you choose what book to read next?

Thank you for taking the time to read this Saturday’s musings and have a lovely weekend!