In Need Of Something New

In anticipation of an upcoming flight, I decided to load my Kindle with new books to read. After spending the past three hours scrolling, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know how to narrow searches.

First off, I want free, or under five dollars. If I’m going to spend more than that on an author I don’t know yet, I want a real book. I don’t understand high Kindle prices when there is so little cost to produce one. No printing, no distribution. You pay for the brand, not the content, with those higher prices. But if you type in ‘free Kindle books’ you get thousands to scroll through.

Then, on top of cheap, I want quality. But if you narrow the search to three stars and above, it still leaves thousands, including thousands that have a four-star review of one.


And finally, I want books with strong settings. I want settings that provide conflict and depth for the characters. Settings that are so well written they become characters. I don’t necessarily mean settings like the wilderness where a character is pitted against rock falls and snow storms. It could be a city if it’s written strongly enough. Though I do prefer nature.

Books I’ve read that fit this, that come immediately to mind, are those like Ellie Griffith’s The Crossing Places. Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. Mary Emerick’s The Geography of Water, which I absolutely loved. The non-fiction Coming Into the Country by John McPhee.

Then there are those series I loved that the authors seem to have walked away from as it’s been so long since anything new came out. PJ Parrish’s Louis Kincaid series. Jonathan King’s Max Freeman series. Sarah Stewart Taylor’s Sweeney series.

As a huge reader, I could spend the rest of the night listing books.


The problem is, if I go to Kindle books, type in ‘fiction with strong settings’ I get lists of innocent Amish girls thrust into the world, or lusty lairds in highlands. Did I mention that while I have nothing against romance, I don’t personally read much in the genre? Oh, I used to. The gothics so popular in the 1970s – Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels. But not so much now.

Maybe, looking over this post, my problem isn’t how to narrow searches. Maybe I’m too picky. Either way, it’s getting late and I have to get up early. So I’m walking away from Amazon and wandering over here. Any favorite books to share? Any favorite authors? And if you don’t mind, please share why you like those books. I’d love a long list of new reading material.


What Speaks To You?

In the last post, I listed eleven questions. Interestingly, most of the responses I got said the questions were too hard. Also interestingly, those responses came in to my email rather than here so I think it was difficult to admit that, too. So I decided to prime the pump of opening dialog by answering them myself. Not all at once, of course, as some are hard.

What makes a book speak to you – the characters, the setting, the plot?

For me, it’s always the setting that pulls me in. The characters and the plot keep me in the story world once there, but it’s the setting that hooks me.

I want to immerse myself in a place that resonates, even if it’s somewhere I’ve never been. Ellie Griffith’s book, The Crossing Places comes immediately to mind, with the salt marsh, the space between land and sea. I also think of the late, great, Elizabeth Peters and her Amelia Peabody series that took me, over the course of many years, to Egypt.

No matter what the location is, the emotional responses are similar. Especially if the setting is an integral part of the story so it becomes a character in its own right. I want to feel that sand in my clothes, the damp salt air on my skin, the freezing, biting snow (Winterdance, by Gary Paulsen). When the setting is so well written that I can see, smell, feel it, so well written that it no longer becomes just a background description but alive and vital to the story, then I won’t want to leave. I’ll want to read everything that author writes from then on. It’s a dream world that becomes tangible on the page.

I also love it when the author uses setting as a character, as I mentioned. Whether that land is an antagonist, throwing up conflict for the protagonist, or is a supporting character, or even comic relief. Writing like that brings the world even more to life, even if it’s a futuristic place on another planet.

For me, the land is the main character, and I’ll wander there, following the other characters as they move through that story world. I’ll even reach first for a book with a cover that shows the setting.

So what makes you reach for a book? What pulls you in, speaks to you, makes you stay within the pages all the way to the end?