a local book group invited me to be a guest speaker at one of their meetings. They essentially wanted a book talk. Think of it in terms of "hand selling." The presenter (uh, me) rounds up some books, prepares a handout with the pertinent details, and then proceeds to pimp those books out to the audience. These can be a lot of fun, the key ingredient being that the presenter should be "enthusiastic" about the books they are recommending. I never book talk something that was a slog to read, or made me want to pull out my hair. I figure "Happy, happy squee!" is way more infectious than "Meh, it was OK. I guess."
Well it may have been a few years, but they invited me back. Which means I must not have sucked too badly. On today's menu, I grabbed five titles. I had warned these ladies in the past that I read a lot of genre fiction, and they claimed, at the time, to be OK with that. Personally, I think it's good to mix things up, break out of your reading shell, and try something new every now and then. The first time I presented I tried to not overload them with too much romance, because honestly I had no clue on the group dynamic. For this second visit? I felt a bit better about mixing in some more Love Cooties. I also tried to mix in books with a wide range of voices and tone. Not all heavy, heavy angst and not all fluffy, brain candy.
(Title links will take you to full reviews - except Levine link goes to most recent book in the series)
Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist, inspirational romance - Yes, I opened the talk up with an inspirational historical romance. I chose this one for a variety of reasons. First, the story is good. Second, the history is just really fantastic. You get a glimpse into the lives of American servants in the late 19th century, and the author does such a wonderful job with the setting of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. Lastly? The religious elements add depth to the story, without being preachy and bashing the reader over the head. Passage I Read Out Loud?: When Mack and Tillie dance in the tapestry room.
As Darkness Falls by Bronwyn Parry, romantic suspense - I chose this one because the romance is good, the suspense is gripping, and the heroine has a ton of emotional baggage, which is ideal fodder for a book group. The rub, of course, is that this wasn't published in the US (Australia and UK), but I did order editions for my library system, because that's how I roll (and dang, this book was awesome sauce!). Passage I Read Out Loud?: Alec comes callin' on Isabelle to ask her to help him on a new child abduction case in her tiny outback home town.
Holding Out for a Hero by HelenKay Dimon, romantic suspense - When I "promote" romance novels to groups like this one, I try to shoot for books that "challenge" the preconceived notions many have about the genre. Yes, this book does have hot sex in it. However it also has a great adversarial relationship, snappy dialogue, a yummy hero-worthy hero, and the whole thing sits on the foundation of a super dark suspense thread. A teenage boy is tried and convicted, as an adult, of murdering his parents. Passage I Read Out Loud?: Deana is trying to convince Josh to take the private investigator job when he tells her he's "out of the hero business."
After by Amy Efaw, Young Adult - The ladies in this group are all of "a certain age" - so my guess is that Young Adult fiction is pretty much off their radar entirely unless their grandkids are in this demographic. This story, about an overachieving teen girl who hides her pregnancy and abandons her newborn in a trash can, is a thought-provoking read about an incredibly tough subject matter. I originally read this, curious to see if the author could "pull it off." I think she did. Also, I think this is the book that got the biggest reaction out of the room. I think quite a few of them will read it! Passage I Read Out Loud?: The police come knocking on Devon's door and discover her bleeding all over her mother's crappy sofa.
This Pen For Hire by Laura Levine, cozy mystery - My brain candy book. Hey, these ladies had already sat through one book about kidnapped children (Parry), one book about a teenager sitting in prison (Dimon) and another book about a teenager who dumps her baby in a trash can (the baby survives, but still....). So yeah, brain candy. Plus, I'm a big believer that sometimes you just need fun and fluff. Sometimes you just want to turn off your brain, open a book, and unwind. This cozy mystery series does that for me, and they read like really fun sitcoms (you know, back when TV was worth watching). Passage I Read Out Loud?: The opening chapter when hapless Howard hires Jaine to write a letter to the object of his desire, Stacy the barracuda aerobics instructor.
At the time I was grabbing these books and prepping this presentation I was shooting for light and dark reads. Of course it was only after the fact that I realized all three of my "darker" reads featured children-in-peril. I didn't set out to go that route, mostly these were the books that came to mind, or jumped out at me while I was scanning my reading spreadsheet. Plus? I'll be honest, I was shooting for books that we had readily available at work. Because, you know, I like to get people to come to the library. Librarians are funny like that.