Member Spotlight: Reading Writing and Riesling

By Simon McDonald, Editorial Manager |

Reading Writing and Riesling joined TheReadingRoom in February 2013 and has reviewed more than 200 books, most recently including To the Top of the Mountain by Arne Dahl, Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston and Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton. You can follow her reviews at TheReadingRoom and on her blog.

Life or Death

What has been your favorite book of the year, so far? Too many to pick just one so here are a few:

… and so many other great reads this year.

What book are you most looking forward to this year? Anything by Michael Robotham, Karin Slaughter, John Connolly, Michael Connelly or Mo Hayder.

The Water-Babies

What was your favorite childhood book? The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton, The Famous Five by Enid Blyton, and The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley.

What were your reading habits like as a child? Voracious, I moved from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie, to Stephen King.

Do you read one book at a time, or several? Usually one book at a time. I immerse myself in a book, if it is good, and just read till I finish.

Where is your favorite place to read? In the sunshine.

Do you write in the margins of books? Only when I was studying did I write in the margins; mostly I will use sticky notes, sometimes I highlight sections.

What makes you love a book? I think you have to connect with a book to enjoy it, which means it has to be written well, no grammatical errors to distract me. It has to flow, and the dialogue must feel natural. There must be at least one character that I like or empathize with. The characters must be fully developed (I love character-driven plots), and the setting must be credible. If reading crime fiction, the narrative must be complex and engaging, I don’t want to guess the ending or the villain on page five. If reading contemporary novels, the same basic principles apply.

What will inspire you to recommend a book? When I feel that connection. When I am transported by the words to another place. When I can feel the tension in my own body. When I am mesmerized by the narrative, or when I feel that I have been enlightened or a dialog has been opened by the book. You may not love a book, but if it makes you think of a different perspective, or you are able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes for a while, it has succeeded.

Is there one book you would recommend to everyone? No. Everyone reads books differently. What I see/appreciate in one book, others may not. I guess what I am trying to say is, reading is a personal experience. I can tell you how a book made me feel, what I liked about it. It is then up to you if you decide to give it a try.

Is there a book you love that nobody else seems to? Not any one book leaps out at me, and as I mentioned reading is a personal experience so all reactions will be different.

What is your favorite genre to read? Crime fiction.

How often do you agree with critics about a book? Depends on how you define critics. I mostly read reviews by other book bloggers, as their books are usually chosen carefully; books they want to read and their reviews are written with passion. It is not a job, and they generally don’t have a vested interest in the review. And they write in plain language, not academic speak, so I trust their judgement.

How do you feel about giving negative reviews? Generally speaking I do not like to publish negative reviews. If I really hate a book, say because of gratuitous violence or a ridiculous plot, I would rather tell the publisher that the book was not for me and give a few examples of why not. I do not publish this negative review; I only share reviews about books that have some redeeming features and that I enjoyed on some level.

Have you ever been intimidated to start reading a book? Any book that is over four hundred pages puts me off.  Sometimes I have discovered that this doesn’t necessarily mean a bad read, just a long one.

Do you keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I used to hoard my books, now I think that they are best given away so others can enjoy.

Tracking North

What is a book you didn’t expect to like, but did? Tracking North by Kerry McGinnis. I don’t usually subscribe to the genre of rural fiction/romance, but this book was so well written — great landscapes, wonderful characters, wonderful insights. More recently, I had a similar reaction to Being Jade by Kate Belle. I looked at the author’s previous works, some described as sensual romances, and wondered what I was getting into. But many had given it stellar reviews. I was so pleasantly surprised at the polished writing, the wonderful images, the fundamental questions it posed about love and life; it was a fantastic read. And then we have All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, a story about suicide that was courageous and yet still enjoyable.

What was the last book that you couldn’t put down until you finished it? Most every book I pick up I read in one or two sittings, but Mo Hyder’s Wolf keep me reading all night.

What is your favorite book series? Karin Slaughter’s Grant County Series and her Will Trent Series are great reads.

Who is your favorite book character? I love Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. I have read so many of these wonderful character driven books that I have grown attached to Harry and his way of seeing the world.

What is your favorite book of all time? I am still looking for it.