Annual Book Club Retreat


Earlier this month my in-person book club had our annual retreat.

I almost skipped out on it. I was a week out from surgery, and it just seemed like a lot of hassle. But I did figure that I could rest there as well as at home, plus my husband insisted that as long as I felt well enough, I should go.

Note to self: don’t ever talk yourself out of things last-minute, because you ALWAYS think staying home sounds better when it comes time to actually pack and leave. And you are always glad when you don’t skip out on plans.

Fortunately, I did not skip out, and I went. As always, I had a lovely time. The food was terrific, and the time spent hanging out with friends was great. Totally worth leaving home and driving out of town for it all!

The house was beautiful, and I read and read. The only thing I really wish was different was the lack of wifi or a good cell signal. We wanted to plan books for next year and not having access to my Goodreads account or other booklists that I have online made that much more difficult!

Pictures #2, 3, and 6 are mine. The other are by Sarah Ronk. Thanks for the images Sarah!

Quarterly Update on Book Club Books

3rd quarter 2017 book club book selections

A look back at the books my two book clubs read for the third quarter of the year, focusing especially on how they worked as discussion titles.

July

The Deliberate Reader book club (TDR) read True Grit and my in-person book club, Broadened Horizons (BH) read A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

True Grit was surprisingly enjoyable (to me) and lent itself well to a discussion. I never did manage to watch either of the movie adaptations, but that would be another way to extend a discussion on it: comparing the book to the movie(s). As Westerns aren’t the stereotypical book club choice, I especially liked branching out a bit in our reading genres by including it.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, of course, a classic choice – Shakespeare always is. I missed the performance of it my book club attended, but I heard it was well done.

August

TDR read The Diamond Age, and BH read Lost in Shangri-La

The Diamond Club does provide a lot to talk about, but I can’t recommend it to a general-interest book club. the book is too long wasn’t worth the hefty reading investment it required. However, if you have a book club that emphasizes science fiction, you almost certainly want to read something by Stephenson, and this one is quite discussable. That’s probably the only time I might suggest this one, as it was not at all what I wanted it to be.

Lost in Shangri-La worked fairly well as a discussion title if your group is looking for discussable nonfiction. It’s also easier to read than many history books, and it covers a less-familiar setting. While the time-period (World War II) is covered in many books, this one doesn’t really “feel” much like other ones set in that era, because of the different geographical location and events. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one even if your group has recently read other World War II books.

September

TDR discussed Plainsong, and BH read Garden Spells

Plainsongis very discussable literary fiction, but I’d be sure not to read it soon after Hannah Coulter The feel was a little too similar to fully appreciate Haruf’s book, after finishing Hannah Coulter so recently earlier in the year.

Garden Spells is also discussable, but in the light-and-fluffy fiction realm. That’s not meant as a criticism, just wanting to help your book club know if it’s the right sort of read for you.


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September 2017 Recap

September was filled with activity, just like August had been. Maybe I should just accept that that’s what our days look like now. The big news for September was that I had surgery at the end of the month. I’m hoping that’s the end of it and nothing else needs to happen pending biopsy results.

The Month in Stats

Books Read This Month: 24
Books Read This Year: 172

Things That Happened

  • Book club – Garden Spells for my in-person book club and Plainsong in the Facebook group.
  • Cub Scouts began for real (along with popcorn sales), and H started Daisy Scouts.
  • Lots of soccer games and G attended a goalie clinic. He seems to like playing goalie.
  • My in-laws came for a planned visit, a little earlier than originally planned (thanks to that surgery) so they could take care of my kids while I was in the hospital and recovering.
  • Awana resumed. G is a T&T and that structure is MOTIVATING him. Also, he is thrilled that he’s now considered old enough to be released without me officially “claiming” him – he’s allowed to come and find me as I am in the line to pick one or the other of his sisters. Plus, the T&T group had a game night on Friday night at the end of the month and it was two hours of Capture the Flag and Dodge Ball. He loved it.

What’s Cooking

  • Egg salad for me for lunch one day, and it made me wonder why I don’t make that more often for lunch.
  • I have found the BEST bar recipe. It’s actually more of a template, and a big part of why it’s the best is because it uses melted butter, so even if I have forgotten I need to bake something until the last second, no worries! I can make this recipe. At some point, I’ll probably make a real post about it and share the base of it, and then you too can use it as a jumping off point.

What I’m Anticipating in October

  • Book club retreat! Hopefully anyway, assuming I’ve recovered enough from surgery. I have a post-op appointment that morning, and will get the all-clear to go or not.
  • The end of soccer. G has a round-robin tournament, so he’s guaranteed at least two games. His team’s record isn’t great, but they’ve gotten better as the season progressed, so I’m not sure how to gauge their potential in the tournament.
  • Belt testing again. G goes for 1st degree decided black belt (!) and H goes for red belt(!)
  • My inlaws wrap up their visit and head back to Arizona, and I’ll try to get back into homeschooling routine after our fall break during their visit and my recovery.
  • Book club – It’s the Jane Eyre flight for my in-person book club and Funny in Farsi in the Facebook group.

Books I Read in September

I shared the list of books I read in a recent post.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Books I Read in September 2017

September was a fantastic month of nonfiction! It wasn’t a bad month in fiction either, but the nonfiction is what really stood out for me.

    Fiction

  1. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

    Book #2 in the Temeraire series, and I enjoyed this one almost as much as the first. What I especially enjoyed was the setup this one provides for future books in the series, and I’m eager to read more and see where Novik takes the characters.

  2. The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

    So many coincidences to help Bess figure out the mystery, and too little of some secondary characters, but I’m still glad I read this entry in the Bess Crawford series. I’m both curious and concerned to know how Todd handles the end of the war – Bess serving as a nurse at the front is such a big part of the series, so what will happen with it once the war ends? If you’ve read later books in the series and know the answer to this question, don’t tell me; I’ll get there eventually.

  3. A Matter of Justice by Charles Todd

    I do imagine Bess meeting up with Ian Rutledge, and Todd having his two series collide in a sense. Hey, J. A. Jance did it once with her two series. This entry in the Rutledge series was less a complete whodunnit and a bit more of a howdunnit, but I always enjoy following along as he solves his cases, and rooting for him as he clashes with his boss at Scotland Yard.

  4. Final Account by Peter Robinson

    A re-read as I continue on with the Inspector Banks series, and get closer to catching up to where I left off with it pre-kids. It’s fun seeing the hints of events that happen in future books being dropped in these earlier titles, and it’s striking how much Robinson improved as a mystery author. In other words, read the early entries in the Banks series to get to know the characters, but realize that the later ones are much better.

  5. Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes

    A cute cozy mystery. I was in the mood for something more in the light-and-fluffy mystery realm and this fit the bill. I may read the second one when I’m looking for another title of that sort. If those are your preferred mysteries, I think you might enjoy this one as well.

  6. Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson

    Listened to this one, as I continue to re-read the earlier ones in the series to get caught up with where I left off reading them.

  7. Nonfiction

  8. Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table by Bri McKoy

    (Review title) Thought-provoking, and with some tasty sounding recipes as well. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and recommend it.

  9. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

    Entertaining account and I hope it works well as a discussion title.

  10. Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker

    LOVED this as an audiobook, so if you’re on the fence as far as which format to get, GET THE AUDIO. Hatmaker is funny and friendly, and so thought-provoking. I thought it connected well with Come and Eat, which I’d just finished right around when I was listening to Mess and Moxie.

  11. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

    Fascinating, both the modern story, and the earlier story that forms the basis for the search. I love reading about people doing things where I have ZERO desire to do that as well (see: Walking the Amazon) and this is another perfect example of that. I’m tempted to watch the movie that’s based on this book, to see how they adapted the two storylines.

  12. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

    SO. GOOD. I’m not entirely sure how to put some of the idas into practice in my life as a mom though, but it gave me so much to think about and consider.

  13. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

    Also loved this one, and the research behind it, and the stories Dweck uses to support her conclusions. It gave me so much to think about, both looking back on my life, but especially looking ahead. How can I keep a growth mindset for myself (in all areas; I’ve always done well at having one in some areas, but not at all in others), but especially now, how do I help cultivate one in my kids?

  14. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker

    Loved this summary of what research shows about success, and how to achieve it. Even more, I loved the stories Barker includes that illustrate his points about success and the ways people have achieved it, both in expected and unexpected ways. My only disappointment was when I finished it and discovered that it’s Barker’s only book; I was hoping to find that he had a half dozen other titles to enjoy. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, try this for a similar feel.

  15. Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

    Interesting summary look at various personality typing systems, and how to use them to make improvements in your own life. Reading it, and then reading the Gretchen Rubin book The Four Tendencies, I wish Bogel’s book had come out later (or Rubin’s earlier), so Bogel could also have included a chapter on the four tendencies – I’d be interested in how she condensed it down and put her own spin on it.

  16. The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

    A fascinating look into the four tendencies, and great ideas about how to work with your own tendency, and the tendencies of people around you. I got slightly sidetracked from the book itself by one story about an obliger because their way of approaching life is so completely different than mine (questioner here).

  17. Kid Lit

  18. Ride on, Will Cody! by Caroline Starr Rose, illustrated by Joe Lillington

    Beautifully illustrated, nicely told. I’m such a fangirl for Rose’s work.

  19. Baby by Patricia Maclachlan

    Sweet middle-grade story, but not a must-read for adults.

  20. Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright

    Fun conclusion to the story begun in Gone-Away Lake. I look forward to letting my kids read these books in the near(ish) future.

  21. Prairie School by Lois Lenski

    One of the books in Lenski’s Regional America series. I like the look at American life in very specific times and places, although it also includes some of the drawbacks to that as well.

  22. Nothing by Annie Barrows

    I so wanted to love this book, but found it disappointing overall. It’s really easy to read, and the two main characters are appealing. But there is so much casual profanity, and drug use mentioned, and some (slight) sexual content, that isn’t balanced by anything beneficial in the book. I get that the book is trying to show how much is happening during years teens say nothing is happening, but ultimately, I didn’t find it offered enough of anything to justify the reading time.

  23. The Grave of Lainey Grace by Aaron Galvin

    Love the magical touches in the story (leprechauns!) but the character development is weak to the point of unbelievability. As a younger reader, I doubt I’d have noticed though, and would have just enjoyed the story.

  24. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
  25. Like Bug Juice on a Burger
  26. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

    Cute novels in verse. They all can stand alone, but there is a bit of progression between them, so there’s a slight advantage to reading them in order. The illustrations are sweet as well, and fit the book nicely.

Never Finished

  • Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

    I thought, yes! I’ll read another Jane Eyre-inspired book! And I started it and the writing is engaging and I was caring about Rochester and I realized that no, I did not want to read the book. I was expecting him to get his heart stomped on by life (and his awful father and lousy brother) and no, I didn’t want to put myself through it. So I sent it back to the library after only a couple of chapters.


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    New on the Stack in September 2017

    Welcome to New on the Stack, where you can share the latest books you’ve added to your reading pile. I’d love for you to join us and add a link to your own post or Instagram picture sharing your books! It’s a fun way to see what others will soon be reading, and get even more ideas of books to add to my “I want to read that!” list.New on the Stack button

    Nonfiction

    Cover of Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne BogelReading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

    How did I get it: Sent a pre-release copy.
    Why did I get it: I love personality typing, and thought this sounded like an interesting take on a multitude of them. Plus, it’s written by Modern Mrs. Darcy.

    Cover of The Yes Effect: Accepting God's Invitation to Transform the World Around You by Luis Bush with Darcy WileyThe Yes Effect: Accepting God’s Invitation to Transform the World Around You by Luis Bush with Darcy Wiley

    How did I get it: Sent a pre-release copy.
    Why did I get it: My friend Darcy is one of the co-authors.

    Cover of Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh DumasFunny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: It’s next month’s pick for my Facebook book club.

    Cover of Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen HatmakerOf Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker

    How did I get it: Borrowed it on audio from the library.
    Why did I get it: She’s funny and thought-provoking.

    Cover of The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen RubinThe Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: I’ve been looking forward to this book for ages!

    The Complete Make-Ahead CookbookThe Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: I love America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks.

    Cover of Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric BarkerBarking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: It sounded interesting.

    Cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. DweckMindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: It’s been on my list for some time, as it’s popped up on my radar through several other books.

    Fiction

    Cover of Ride on, Will Cody!Ride on, Will Cody! by Caroline Starr Rose

    How did I get it: Sent a pre-release copy by the publisher.
    Why did I get it: I JUMPED at the chance to get this one because … Caroline Starr Rose wrote it!

    Cover of Kilmeny of the Orchard by L. M. MontgomeryKilmeny of the Orchard by L. M. Montgomery

    How did I get it: Kindle freebie!
    Why did I get it: I’m going to try and read through Montgomery’s works next year, and am grabbing her non-Anne titles as I find them.

    Cover of PinesPines by Blake Crouch

    How did I get it: Bought the Kindle version.
    Why did I get it: It was a great deal and I couldn’t resist grabbing this trilogy by the author of Dark Matter.

    Cover of Wayward by Blake CrouchWayward by Blake Crouch

    How did I get it: Bought the Kindle version.
    Why did I get it: Getting all three in the Wayward Pines trilogy.

    Cover of The Last Town by Blake CrouchThe Last Town by Blake Crouch

    How did I get it: Bought the Kindle version
    Why did I get it: Getting all three in the Wayward Pines trilogy.

    Cover of A Fool & His Monet by Sandra OrchardA Fool & His Monet by Sandra Orchard

    How did I get it: Kindle freebie.
    Why did I get it: Worth trying as a free read.

    Cover of Throne of Jade by Naomi NovikThrone of Jade by Naomi Novik

    How did I get it: Borrowed it on audio from the library.
    Why did I get it: Next in the Temeraire series.

    Cover of The Shattered Tree by Charles ToddThe Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

    How did I get it: Borrowed it on audio from the library.
    Why did I get it: Next in the Bess Crawford series.

    Cover of A Matter of Justice by Charles ToddA Matter of Justice by Charles Todd

    How did I get it: Borrowed it on audio from the library.
    Why did I get it: Next in the Ian Rutledge series.

    Cover of Innocent Graves by Peter RobinsonInnocent Graves by Peter Robinson

    How did I get it: Borrowed it on audio from the library.
    Why did I get it: Next in the Alan Banks series.

    Cover of Mr. Rochester by Sarah ShoemakerMr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: Debating reading it during my Jane Eyre-inspired reading binge.

    Cover of Midnight at the Bright Idea BookstoreMidnight at the Bright Idea Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: Bookstore setting is tempting.

    Cover of CaravalCaraval by Stephanie Garber

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: It’s been highly recommended a handful of times.

    Cover of Poppy by Mary HooperPoppy by Mary Hooper

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: I found it while searching for WWI fiction.

    Cover of Prairie SchoolPrairie School by Lois Lenski

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: It’s part of Lenski’s Regional America series, which was recommended in one of my Facebook groups.

    Cover of Nothing by Annie BarrowsNothing by Annie Barrows

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: Annie Barrows.

    Cover of The Grave of Lainey GraceThe Grave of Lainey Grace by Aaron Galvin

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: The cover caught my eye when I was on Galvin’s website.

    Cover of Like Pickle Juice on a CookieLike Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

    How did I get it: Borrowed it via the Kindle Prime reading program.
    Why did I get it: The cover grabbed my attention and I thought it was worth trying.

    Cover of Like Bug Juice on a BurgerLike Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: The next one by the author.

    Cover of Like Carrot Juice on a CupcakeLike Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

    How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
    Why did I get it: The next one by the author.


    “New on the Stack” Link-up Guidelines:

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    The Deliberate Reader

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    Bringing History to Life: Ride On, Will Cody!

    I’m excited to welcome back one of my favorite authors Caroline Starr Rose to the blog today to answer some questions about her newest book, Ride On, Will Cody!, which releases October 1. Be sure and read part one of the interview as well.

    Can you tell us about the upcoming book?

    Ride On, Will Cody! is a picture book about the third-longest ride in Pony Express history. According to legend, young Will Cody (later America’s greatest showman, Buffalo Bill) rode for the Pony Express at the age of fifteen. He claimed to have covered 322 miles in under twenty-two hours on a ride that required twenty-one horses. I should add that while most historians now believe Cody didn’t ride for the Pony Express, he no doubt had a huge influence on America’s collective memory of the eighteen-month venture through the reenactments he later included in his Wild West show. On a personal note, I’ve decided even if the story of his ride is more legend than truth, it still embodies the courage of the young men who rode for the Pony Express and gives a sense of Cody’s big, bold character. That’s enough for me.

    Ride On, Will Cody! is an in-the-moment adventure as boy and horse (and reader) hit the trail together. I’m so happy readers will soon be able to jump in!

    What led you to write this story? What made you decide to tell it as a picture book?

    In 2012, my family was on vacation in Colorado. I happened to notice a sign in Golden for a Buffalo Bill Museum and convinced my family we needed to stop in. As I walked through the exhibits, a story idea began to stir. I didn’t know the specifics, but I knew it would be about Buffalo Bill. The following January, I checked out a number of research books. I was pretty convinced my story would focus on Cody’s Wild West show, but his Pony Express work (if it happened at all) was what really caught my attention.

    What do you hope readers will get from reading the new book, (or from any of your books)?

    I hope all my books momentarily sweep readers away to another time and place. I hope they see courage, determination, and hope — things my books always seem to circle back to.

    What makes the historical fiction genre so appealing, both as an author, and as a reader?

    Historical fiction allows readers to see people of the past as fully human. Flawed and wonderful. Short-sighted and brave. Their experiences might have been different than ours, but their emotions and motivations are things we recognize in our own lives.

    Historical fiction was my true entry point into understanding the past. It went deeper and wider than a handful of paragraphs in a textbook and made history come alive for me. I hope my writing might do the same!

    Why did you decide to tell this story, basing it on a real character from history, when your previous historical fiction has had fictional main characters?

    That’s a great question. I actually have this historical fiction continuum in my head, divided into five categories. The first I call history light. May B. falls into this one. It’s a story with a specific historical setting (time and place) but includes no historical event or people. On the other end would be a novel like Melanie Fishbane’s recent release, Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery. Not only does Maud center on a real person and is full of real events, Melanie had to be granted permission to even write the story! I’d classify a book like this as a five.

    For those interested, I’ve called Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine a two and Blue Birds a three. Both have a specific setting and specific historical events. Jasper mentions historical figures, but I took liberties with the few I brought to life. With Blue Birds I had to go a step further and develop both personalities and motivations for minor characters who were nevertheless based on real people — a bit of a daunting task.

    If I’d told myself I was writing a “level four” book For Ride On, Will Cody! (a real person as the protagonist but no official permission needed), I might not have tried. Instead I thought of it as “biography-ish” — an attempt to capture one moment in time in one boy’s life. (It’s not uncommon for me to play word games like this. Showing up to the blank page can be challenging. I want more joy and less angst in my work. Simply altering definitions as to what I’m doing sometimes is enough to do the trick.)

    I wanted to reflect Will’s spirit and the determination of the young boys who rode for the Pony Express. I wanted to paint an experience with words. I’m really pleased with how the book came together.

    Your first books featured female main characters, and your two latest ones have had male main characters. Has that changed your writing process?

    I don’t think it’s changed my writing process, but it has exposed some unknown biases. More than once with Jasper my editor pointed out I wasn’t allowing him to fully experience emotion. Boys might express things differently than girls, but they are still emotional beings. Of course I knew this! My story, though, didn’t reflect this obvious fact. I’m grateful my editor called me on it.

    What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? Did it provide any feelings of constraint as an author, or was it freeing having some general outlines of historical fact to work around?

    The idea of ethics is an interesting one. I’ve just finished a non-fiction picture book about two historical figures. It was essential I not invent dialogue or events. I wasn’t even comfortable hinting at emotions these two women didn’t somehow express themselves.

    For historical fiction, I feel story trumps history. I am very thorough in my research. Any time I deviate from what really happened, I mention it in an author’s note. Ultimately, though, I’m telling a story, and story needs to build and allow for a character to grow and change. I’m okay with simplifying timelines, for example, to better serve a character and her world. It’s my responsibility, though, to tell the reader when I’ve altered things.

    I will say “general outlines of historical fact” help to shape plot. There are specific events in a historical timeline that will touch a character’s life. How she responds to these events (based on how she sees the world) is what makes a story.

    How do you make the collaboration with the illustrator work when you’re writing a picture book? Do you have a favorite illustration from the book?

    Authors and illustrators don’t collaborate. Publishing houses work hard to keep us separate, largely to honor the illustrator’s process. It wouldn’t do to have an author breathing down the illustrator’s neck! I’ve had my turn at the story. Once the book is with the illustrator, he brings his own insight and magic.

    I will say that I got to see quite a bit of the process unfold with Ride On, Will Cody!, perhaps because it’s historical fiction and the art director wanted to be sure the depictions were right. I saw early sketches and read comments from the art director to the illustrator, Joe Lillington. It was very much like the author / editor revision process.

    I love these illustrations, so it’s hard to narrow things down to one. My favorite, though, goes with the lines Station shines / on the horizon, / hoofbeats thunder, /echo ‘round. Will has been riding for a while and finally sees a station ahead. I imagined him alone, those echoing hoofbeats his horse’s. But the illustration! Oh my goodness. It was so much more than I could have imagined (and a great example as to why the illustrator needs room apart from a hovering author). Joe has included a herd of buffalo in the picture. It’s a great Wyoming scene but it’s bigger than that: The buffalo are a beautiful nod to the man Will Cody will become. The picture truly thunders in a way the language couldn’t on its own.

    That’s the beauty of a picture book. The words plus the illustrations aren’t a simple 1+1 = 2 arithmetic problem. When words finally meet pictures the outcome is exponential, something so much more than either could have ever been alone.

    Want more information about Caroline or Ride On, Will Cody!? Read part one of the interview and also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (but I’ve bought my own copies of some of her previous works). This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

    Getting to Know Caroline Starr Rose

    I’m excited to welcome one of my favorite authors Caroline Starr Rose to the blog today to answer some questions about herself and her writing process. Come back for part two of the interview, where she’ll explain her “historical fiction authenticity scale” and share about her newest book, Ride On, Will Cody!, which releases October 1.

    Caroline Starr Rose
    Can you tell us a little about yourself?

    I’m a former teacher, a mother to two teenage boys, a pastor’s wife, and a children’s author. We’ve lived all over the country but have spent the last seven years in Albuquerque, NM, where my husband and I grew up. It’s been so special to share this place we love with our sons.

    What do you do when you’re not writing?

    I run, read, work crosswords, walk the dog, go to my boys’ sporting events. I love to cook when I have the time. Otherwise, not so much. My life is pretty uneventful, and I love it that way.

    What’s your favorite picture book from childhood?

    The Littlest Rabbit by Robert Kraus. Revisiting it as an adult, it’s a little weird (Rabbits throwing punches!), but I loved it as a girl.

    What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel, whether for adults or children?

    Undoubtedly it would be Long Night Dance by Betsy James (YA speculative fiction). Betsy spoke to my adolescent literature class at the University of New Mexico over twenty years ago. I picked up Long Night Dance soon after and was entranced. Every few years, I’d search to see if she’d continued the story. When we lived in Florida, I found the second book. In Virginia I found the third and wrote Betsy gushy fan mail. When we moved back to Albuquerque, I found out Betsy was offering a writing workshop and immediately signed up. We’re now friends and — this was huge for me — she let me read the fourth book in the series, Roadsouls, when it was still in manuscript form.

    Has being a writer changed you as a reader?

    Oh, yes. I used to be quite the reading snob (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But the longer I’ve written, the more I’ve learned to appreciate books that I might not have picked up fifteen or twenty years ago. I think knowing the hard work that goes into writing has both broadened my taste and shown me plenty to admire in the books I’ve read. I’m constantly impressed with the way other authors tell a story through their choices with plot, structure, form, and point of view.

    Is there any particular author or book that influenced you growing up, or influences your writing today?

    I would have to say of all the authors I admire, Beverly Cleary has had the biggest impact on my writing. Ramona Quimby is hands down the best middle-grade character ever written. (This is my humble opinion, but it feels like absolute fact.)

    The thing that has really struck me as an adult re-visiting the Ramona books is the compassion Beverly Cleary has for her character (and by extension, her young readers). Though she doesn’t shy away from awkward moments, there is a tenderness in the way Cleary deals with Ramona when she throws up in class, when she kicks her bedroom walls in anger, when she names her doll the most beautiful name she can think of — Chevrolet.

    These books have reminded me what it was like to be a child. They nudged me to be more patient with the young people in my life. They’ve encouraged me to treat my characters with respect and love.

    What’s the most difficult part of the writing process?

    Well, all of it! But seriously, drafting is the part I like least. Everything is so wide open, it can be paralyzing. I don’t yet know my characters and their world (even if I’ve spent extensive time researching a setting and the history surrounding it). There’s a lot of stumbling around and wrong turns involved.

    What do you love most about the writing process?

    I love revision work with my editor. It can be incredibly hard (see above) but is so rich. At this point, the story is really underway. Major changes are still possible (twice over with Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine I tossed two-thirds of the manuscript and started again), but usually the focus is on digging deeper, making connections, really bringing the book to life.

    I love, love, love returning to the world that’s under construction, spending time with the characters who become more real and complex and human as each day passes. It’s utterly absorbing. After reading the same (altered) manuscript for years, I’ve not once found myself bored. It’s fresh and exciting every time.

    You’ve written 2 picture books, 2 novels in verse, and 1 prose novel. How do you decide what format fits which story? Is that planned in advance, or have you ever changed it after beginning a story?

    I’ve never debated if an idea is a picture book or a novel. Knowing if a novel is meant to be written as verse or prose is another thing entirely.

    The conventional wisdom is to read one hundred books in your genre (or form) before attempting to write in that style. I’d read all of two verse novels before writing my frontier story, May B., but that was because I had no intention of writing this way. My early attempts at the story fell flat. The ideas in my head were far from the words on the page. When I returned to my research I realized the voices of pioneer women were careful and spare, a reflection of their stark environment. I knew if I could mirror their voices I would be able to tell May’s story most truthfully.

    I knew my Klondike Gold Rush story, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, was going to be prose, but I was convinced at first it would be an epistolary novel. It didn’t take long for me to realize this form did not suit my boy — a kid who didn’t take to schooling was hardly going to express himself with the written word.

    Of my published novels, it’s only been my Lost Colony story, Blue Birds, that started as verse and stayed that way.

    Form must absolutely serve the story and not the other way around.

    Have you written a book you love that you haven’t published?

    Several…and many more I’m so glad have never seen the light of day. I would suspect most of us who write fiction have experienced the same. There are a couple still making the rounds that — fingers crossed — will someday find a home. Hope springs eternal.

    What’s been the best compliment you’ve received as an author?

    I’ve received messages from both dyslexic children and adults who have read May B. and connected with the story. Here’s a beautiful example:

    “At the end of May B., I am crying. I am crying at the ways she is so strong and capable. It was as if you were writing right into the places of my heart where those accusations of being careless and not good enough had settled. And you whispered that like May, I could overcome. I could hope for the good things even when they are hard. Thank you, Caroline. Thank you, May.”

    How has releasing a book changed now that you’ve done this 5 times?

    When May B. was a week from release, I wanted to climb under my bed and hide. After months of excitement, I suddenly felt dread. I couldn’t take back what I’d written. Soon everyone could see it and would have an opinion. That was kind of terrifying.

    Generally, I’m a little more mellow than that first time around, but I’ve also learned to acknowledge patterns that come with the release of a book (and to treat myself gently in the midst of them). The nerves start a few months out as trade reviews roll in. (I always take a deep breath before opening an email from my editor that begins A review from Kirkus / Publisher’s Weekly / Booklist / School Library Journal). I am entirely too involved with stats those first months after a release. Penguin Random House has an author portal which uses Neilsen BookScan numbers (never a good representation of books like mine, generally marketed to schools and libraries, let me tell you!) and also tracks the number of books shipped (a better glimpse of sales). After the third-month mark, bookstores start to return unsold copies. It can be depressing. Honestly, it’s more information that is beneficial for any author to have.

    I try to remember if my editor is proud of the book and I am proud of the book, that’s enough. I’m getting really, really close to believing this is true.

    Want more information about Caroline or Ride On, Will Cody!? Come back Friday, and also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (but I’ve bought my own copies of some of her previous works). This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

    Introducing October’s Book Club Selection: Funny in Farsi

    funny-in-farsi

    Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

    What’s It About?

    (Description from Goodreads)

    In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since. Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.

    Why Was This Title Selected

    I wanted one memoir for the year, about someone not American or English, and not have it be completely gut-wrenching in subject matter. This ended up being a last-minute substitution when my original pick turned out to be a novel, based on true events.

    Anything Else to Know About It?

    The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

    It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

    And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

    What’s Coming Up Next?

    ordinary-graceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

    What’s it about? Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery, and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.

    Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

    And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

    See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

    New on Your Stack (volume 29)

    Some highlights from the books from last month’s linkup:


    Cover for Deadly SanctuaryI am so excited for Annette (AKBookworm) because she’s going to be reading Cinder for the first time! Such a great book, and a great series. I hope she loves it.

    Annette also highlighted Deadly Sanctuary, which intrigues me thanks to the Arizona setting.


    Cover of A Fool & His MonetJill (Days at Home) let me know that A Fool & His Monet is currently free for Kindle, so I figured it was worth a try. I like the main character being an FBI special agent focused on art crimes. It may be a little too suspense/romance focused for me to love, but I’ll try it. Someday.


    Cover of Fire and FantasyArwen (The Tech Chef) added a slew of fantasy novels in August, and despite knowing nothing about any of the authors, I’m so tempted by the Fire and Fantasy collection simply because it’s only $.99 and includes 20 books. That’s a whole lot of reading material for a dollar.


    Cover of Beneath a Scarlet SkyStacie (Sincerely Stacie) added so many great books to her reading stack in August. Fortunately for the sake of my TBR stack, I’ve already read many of them! Reading People, Option B, For the Love, Gulp, Grunt, and How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind. All of them range from “worth reading” to “read this as soon as possible” in my recommended reading scale. 🙂

    I am interested in the novel Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan. It sounds like an amazing premise, and to hear that it’s based on a true story? Astonishing.

    What’s embarrassing to report is that when I went to Amazon to find out the details of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, it tells me that I already own the item, and have since April. So much for me keeping track of new books.


    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

    New Book Love: Reading People by Anne Bogel

    Cover for Reading People by Anne BogelReading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

    Reading People is a general overview of several personality frameworks (think Myers-Briggs and Enneagram, plus several others). It includes plenty of examples of how understanding that framework has helped Bogel in her personal life, or in the lives of people she knows.

    The strength of the book is in those personal examples. You can get an overview of the personality systems online, but reading about how someone has used that information is much more helpful.

    In that sense, it reminded me a bit of a Gretchen Rubin book (like The Happiness Project), where she has distilled research down, and tried applying it to her life, then sharing the results. In this case, Bogel is distilling each personality typing system down to a quick summary, with a reference section pointing you to more information on each system.

    I appreciated the book’s structure: each chapter discusses one personality-typing system, and it was easy to read it in chunks. It also manages to make some of the more complicated systems (cognitive functions, enneagram) understandable.

    While this is the sort of book that I am in general pre-disposed to like, I thought it was very well done and enjoyed it tremendously. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get an overview of the various personality typing systems, and some ideas of how to use that knowledge to improve their own life.

    And on a completely shallow note, the physical book is really pretty! It’s got a beautiful gold spine that looks so nice on my bookshelves.

    Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Goodreads

    Publisher’s Description:
    If the viral Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes are any indication, we are collectively obsessed with the idea of defining and knowing ourselves and our unique place in the world. But what we’re finding is this: knowing which Harry Potter character you are is easy, but actually knowing yourself isn’t as simple as just checking a few boxes on an online quiz.

    For readers who long to dig deeper into what makes them uniquely them (and why that matters), popular blogger Anne Bogel has done the hard part–collecting, exploring, and explaining the most popular personality frameworks, such as Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, and others. She explains to readers the life-changing insights that can be gained from each and shares specific, practical real-life applications across all facets of life, including love and marriage, productivity, parenting, the workplace, and spiritual life. In her friendly, relatable style, Bogel shares engaging personal stories that show firsthand how understanding personality can revolutionize the way we live, love, work, and pray.


    Disclosure: I was sent a pre-release copy of the book, but I also bought my own copy (and passed it along to a friend). I was not required to write a positive review, and the pre-release copy had no impact on my opinion on the book. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!