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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: She Treads Softly
Blog URL: http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/
Your name: Lori Lutes

A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how did She Treads Softly get started?

She Treads Softly originally started as a result of an online group for award-winning books that I began participating in at the end of 2006. The group book discussions were originally conducted through an email group until it was decided that it would be nice if our reviews/thoughts were also written down and shared on blogs. Some people left the group over this radical decision, but I decided to give blogging a try.

Your blog celebrated its 10th anniversary this year – congratulations! Can you talk a little bit about your preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years?

My original reviews were simple, short thoughts about books interspersed with other non-book posts. After trying several different styles over the years, I am pleased with my current approach and have stuck with it for several years now. I like to open with a header providing the important information for a reader: title, author, publisher, publication date, number of pages and ISBN-13. I follow this with a short synopsis, hopefully spoiler-free, and then I give my thoughts on the book. I dearly love including quotes, and often remember (and quote) sentences and phrases from books, but since I am usually reviewing advanced reading copies now I have to forego them (unless I can’t help myself). Hopefully I provide some substantial, thoughtful insights that will help another reader decide if the book is a good fit for them. After flirting with giving stars at one time, I’m much happier with my current rating system: very highly recommended, highly recommended, recommended, so-so, not recommended.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I’ll acknowledge that I am always ready for dystopian fiction and a good plague or virus book, fiction or nonfiction. I am ready to bid adieu to vampires; along with all blurbs saying: This is the new Gone Girl, or The Hunger Games, or The Girl on the Train. They are all great books but the comparison puts the new release at a disadvantage.

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

What I’d suggest will probably be the polar opposite of what others recommend people do for a successful blog. For me, it’s about the book reviews and your thoughts.

For years I read and followed a large number of book blogs, but as more and more of them became concerned with posting something, anything, daily, I stopped reading them. I was reading them for their book reviews, but when the extraneous content overwhelmed the reviews, I stopped reading the blogs. I have a busy life and read books, not blogs, for pleasure. If you have a book blog, I read it for your book recommendations only.

So my advice would be for someone with a book blog to consistently blog their thoughts about the books they have read and keep the extra chatter to a minimum. It’s okay with me if you don’t post daily. If you are a book blog, keep to your brand; it’s all about the books.

Which upcoming Fiction book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker (9/5/17); Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (10/3/17); The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (11/21/17) and the short stories in Bad Kansas by Becky Mandelbaum (9/15/17).

         

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

At She Treads Softly I review all the books I read. I enjoy reading a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

First, I can never just do one of anything and can be a rule breaker. This gets worse as I get older. My heart will always be tender for: Emilio Sandoz in Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow (1996); Elaine Risley in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye (1988); and the Tull family in Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982).

Book you’d like to see made into a movie or tv show:

I recently read You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron and thought that it would actually make a good movie because it is a mystery that could be very creepy visually (a doll maker and a huge doll collection is involved in the story).

Your favorite two authors for Fiction titles:

Oh dear, another restriction that makes my head hurt. I love Margaret Atwood, Joshilyn Jackson, and, more recently, Fredrik Backman – but there are so many others that I adore and now have left out.

And to finish off our interview, what is the last book that made you smile?

I smiled during Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan and Theft by Finding: Diaries by David Sedaris. I flat out laughed aloud with tears in my eyes while reading Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters by Susanna Fogel.

        

Thanks so much, Lori, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out the She Treads Softly blog and more Fall Fiction on NetGalley!

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Jill Santopolo on Lessons Learned from Other Genres

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

No literary genre is an island. Even if there is one genre you usually read, odds are, it has more in common with other kinds of stories than you might think. No one knows this better than Jill Santopolo, whose latest novel The Light We Lost draws on her experiences writing and editing across a number of genres. Here, she tells readers about the lessons she’s learned from her genre-spanning career.

Before I started writing The Light We Lost, I spent ten years editing children’s and young adult novels across many different genres. I’m still doing that, and I love it. I love being able to work on mysteries and paranormal romance and fantasy and historical fiction and contemporary novels because I can look at what one author has done really well in one genre, and see how it might apply to what another author is writing in another genre. I can give tips to a mystery writer about narrative tension from editing a romance novel, I can give tips to a historical fiction writer about world building from editing a fantasy novel. I love being able to do that, finding pieces of the writing craft that crossover from genre to genre.

So when, a few years ago, my boss, the publisher of a children’s book imprint, asked me to read E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey to see if there was anything that she did that we might learn from and share with the young adult novelists we were working with, it made perfect sense to me. And I did come up with some things that I thought might be useful—some that I also ended up applying to my own writing of The Light We Lost. And when I did so, it got me thinking: What have I learned as a children’s book editor that could make my adult writing stronger? While young adult novels aren’t a genre, they do have some similarities as far as craft is concerned—and they’re elements of craft that I thought might my make my own novel stronger.

Pacing
One of the things I keep in mind when I’m editing children’s books is that books are competing for kids’ attention with sports, video games, apps, homework, play dates… basically everything. The goal with any children’s book is to keep the pace of the story moving so quickly that there isn’t any place that feels natural to pause, nowhere to put the book down and go do something else instead. We want those kids to fall asleep with their books on top of their blankets. And one of the ways to make that happen is to pay special attention to pacing. When I started writing The Light We Lost, I kept that in mind. I wanted my readers to get so wrapped up in the momentum of the story that they fell asleep with it on their blankets as well.

Love Triangles
I’ve edited more than one teen romance with a love triangle at its center, and, as an adjunct professor at The New School, have worked with students who are writing books with love triangles in them, too. The “who will s/he choose” and “who would I choose” is something that seems to connect readers deeply to the characters whose stories they’re reading—think about Bella, Edward, and Jacob from Twilight. Katniss, Peeta, and Gale from The Hunger Games. Calla, Ren and Shay from Nightshade. The trick, I think, is creating two characters who are potentially a good match for the main character because they fulfill different needs that the character has. Then the reader—and the character—get to choose which of those needs is more important. Making that decision along with the main character is a way to connect the reader to the story, and that’s always my goal—to make that connection.

Short Chapters
The Light We Lost is written in vignette form, none of which is more than a handful of pages long. This is something else I look for when I edit books for children and teens. It’s easy to read “just one more,” when the next chapter is only a couple of pages long. This ties in with pacing, but is slightly different because it’s not just the idea of keeping the action moving, but it’s the idea of making each scene as tight and taut as possible.

No Extra Words
When I’m line-editing novels for kids and teens, I often circle words or sentences or whole paragraphs and write “needed?” next to them in the margin. I tried to do the same thing with The Light We Lost. The book’s not all that long, and every word that’s in there feels, to me, like it’s absolutely necessary. I hope readers feel the same way.

There’s that old writing mantra: Write what you know. And then there’s the addendum: Write it slant. For the past 15 years I’ve known children’s books. But with The Light We Lost, I took what I learned and I wrote it slant.

Jill Santopolo received a BA in English literature from Columbia University and an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the author of three successful children’s and young-adult series and works as the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Reading Reality
Blog URL: http://www.readingreality.net
Your name: Marlene Harris

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Fiction, and why did you start?

Reading Reality’s sixth anniversary is coming up on April 4. I actually celebrate a Blogo-Birthday on April 4-5, as my own birthday is April 5. I’m a bit older than 6, though.

I began Reading Reality when we moved from Gainesville FL to Atlanta. We came for my husband’s job, but 2011 was still during the Great Recession. I wanted something to do that would still connect with books, and would keep me busy and intellectually stimulated. One of the things I enjoy about working in libraries is being able to help readers find books they will love, and Reading Reality is an extension of that.

The blog was originally called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”. I got that from a t-shirt. But when I started doing library consulting, “Reading Reality” sounded a bit more like the name of a company, so that’s what stuck. Occasionally people still ask me about real estate in Pennsylvania.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

My go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy, but I also read a lot of romance and a fair amount of mystery. I’m pretty eclectic. I particularly like the places where genres mingle, so things like science fiction romance and historical mystery always get me reading. When I’m in a reading slump, I turn to urban fantasy and that brings me right back to the joy of reading.

As far as trends go, I’m kind of sorry to see steampunk fading a bit. I loved that blend of historical, SF, fantasy and often romance. The best of the breed were generally terrific and terrifically inventive.

Do you find your background as a librarian influences which books you choose and how you review them? And, are you still involved in the library community?

I am still very involved in the library community. I am currently the librarian at TAPPI, the Technical Association for the Pulp and Paper Industry. They have a small but significant collection of materials in the industry, and I answer research requests and provide document delivery.

I’m also a member of the American Library Association Notable Books Council, a committee that has picked the best literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry every year since 1944. And I review for Library Journal.

Some of the books I choose to review are for my library interests, but most I pick just because they look either intriguing, fun, or both. Being a librarian, having done readers’ advisory work, does influence the way I review. If there are “read-alikes” for the book I’m reviewing, I make sure to give them a mention, no matter when they were published. And if I’m reviewing a book in a series, I always tell readers whether or not they really need to have read the rest of that series, of if they can just jump in anywhere. Discovering that you are reading book 5 of a series and are completely lost is a VERY disappointing experience.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

I like different features for very different reasons. Blog Hops are terrific for getting traffic. I do Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday Post because they help me stay organized. I hope people enjoy those features, but they do serve a function for me as the blogger.

My favorite features have been Amy Daltry’s semi-regular guest reviews. She picks interesting books, including a lot of genre classics, and she writes a terrific review, whether the book is terrific or not. She’s clear and honest about what she likes and doesn’t like in a book, and it is great to have the opportunity to feature a reviewer whose perspectives are different from my own.

The most fun feature I have is one that I wish I was able to do more often, and that’s joint reviews with either Cass or Amy. It is particularly fun and frequently hilarious when we are able to write together in real time.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

Cass and I have a joint review for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop coming in March that made both of us ROFL. It’s not that the book is funny, it isn’t and it’s not intended to be. But we love to out-snark each other.

I’m very excited to read In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’ve heard such marvelous things about her work, but this is my chance to get in at the beginning of one of her series.

My favorite upcoming cover is Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James. The joke going around Facebook among librarians is, “What, only 12?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Evidence of a life either misspent or well spent with books, by someone who can’t resist sharing.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Sherlock Holmes. I have an absolute weakness for Holmes pastiches, and I love Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series.

Your favorite 2 authors for Fiction titles:

Only 2? Inconceivable!

Science fiction: John Scalzi
Fantasy: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Mystery: Louise Penny
Historical Mystery: Charles Todd
Science Fiction Romance: Anna Hackett
Fantasy Romance: Jeffe Kennedy
Romance: Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

John Scalzi, hands down. And conveniently, he is still alive. I would love to go on a book tour, or even part of one, with him. I’ve heard him perform at several, and he’s always both thoughtful and funny, as he is on his blog at Whatever, although the ratio of thoughtful to funny there is slightly different. And I’d get to quiz him about his upcoming books. And possibly meet his current cats, the Scamperbeasts.

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Author Chat with Lisa Unger

Live on June 8th at 4pm ET!

An instant page-turner (Lisa Gardner) that straddles the line between thriller and horror…sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Stephen King fans. (Booklist, starred) A young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl’s disappearance.

Ink and Bone

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Pub Date: June 7, 2016
Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Touchstone

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Author Chat with Robert Dugoni

Live on May 17th at 4pm ET!

From the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Bestselling Author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series : My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath (September 2015) and In the Woods (May 2016). He is also the author of the critically acclaimed, David Sloane series: The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One and The Conviction.

In the Clearing

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Pub Date: May 17, 2016
Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Thomas & Mercer

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