How to Create Book Reviews People Want to Read

Creating a good book review isn’t easy.  I know, I know – it all boils down to personal opinion, right? Well, kind of. The way I see it, book reviews are a balancing act between personal feelings and critical feedback. In one of my recent podcast episodes, I recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Clothing of Books” but hesitated to call it a review.The reason is simple: I just gave my opinion; I didn’t offer any critical feedback about her work. As far as I can tell, that’s the biggest difference between a recommendation and a review.

I did the same thing in my 2017 Halloween episode but under different circumstances. In that situation, I had a list of books I enjoyed but didn’t spend very much time talking about them. With less real estate in the episode for each story, I didn’t have the space to analyze them critically. Hence, recommendations.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my process, I want to clarify something: People don’t just read book reviews. They also watch and listen to them. Mine, for instance, are in the form of a podcast. That’s because I love podcasts and enjoy absorbing book reviews (and books) by listening to them. When I use the word “read,” I’m talking about principles that apply to blogs, videos, and podcasts alike. Additionally, I’ve made a handy-dandy infographic with the points outlined in this blog. Check it out and feel free to use it as a guide for your own reviews in the future! Continue reading “How to Create Book Reviews People Want to Read”

Book Recommendation: The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa LahiriMay the record show this episode went live in February! Well, at least for those of us on the West Coast. To celebrate the shortest month of the year, I’ve got a quick book review (recommendation, really) for you. And since this book is actually about the writing life, I’ve combined the show’s normal segments into one. If you haven’ read Jhumpa Lahiri, I highly recommend her two collections of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. Someday, I’d like to review some of her other other works but for now, I hope you all enjoy my discussion of The Clothing of Books.

Books mentioned in this episode:

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Pet Sematary Review & Static vs Dynamic Characters

Pet Sematary Book ReviewToday, I’m making up for lost time with a longer-than-usual book review and writing discussion! First up, I’m talking about Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Most of the time, I read King because I want something that’s just straight-up entertaining. In retrospect, this book actually touched on some more discussion-worthy themes than the other novels I’ve read by him. Specifically, modern traditions surrounding death and how the circumstances surrounding death can make it more – or less – horrifying. But mostly more.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about static and dynamic characters and how you can use them in your writings. It’s an interesting topic because, in my experience, static characters kind of have a reputation for being boring – but they don’t have to be! On the other hand, dynamic characters open a whole world of possibilities for internal conflict in your character. All that to say, when it comes to choosing which character type best fits your story, pick wisely.

If you’ve listened before or if this is your first encounter with Plotboilers, you can always find me on iTunes. And if you like the show, go ahead and leave me a rating and review!

Books mentioned in this Episode:

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

It by Stephen King


January Update!

Ah, January. It felt like such a long month and yet, it wasn’t quite long enough for me to get my second episode published. I know, I know. Here’s my excuse: I was on vacation. Typically, I read a lot when I travel. This time, I expected to spend my Norwegian getaway in a cabin covered with a blanket of snow, sipping coffee and wine, reading the next few books I want to review for you all.

In reality, I did sip wine in a cabin. And the snow was magical. However, I didn’t get around to reading the aforementioned books. Sad face! All that to say, I’m putting off today’s episode until early next month to avoid recording lame content about books I’m not as excited to review while in a jet-lagged stupor. Until then, feel free to check out some of my older episodes and blog posts! You can find them here or on iTunes.

PS – If you recently rated Plotboilers on iTunes or left a review or did both of those things – Thank you a million times over!  

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Book Review and “You’re Not Good Enough” Book Tag!

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Book CoverToday’s episode features a review of We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor. When I first heard about We Are Legion, I wasn’t convinced that I’d like it – mostly because the main character is a spaceship. (That’s kind of an oversimplification, but you’ll understand why after hearing the review.) This book surprised me because it’s not only super fun but also deals with some pretty interesting questions –  like what it means to be alive and the nature of individuality. If that sounds cool, you’re in luck because it’s actually the first of three books in the Bobiverse trilogy. I definitely plan on reading the next two – and I might review them, too!

In the meantime, I decided to shake things up a bit and participate in the “You’re Not Good Enough” book tag. Again, this is going to take some explaining. Basically, I’m going to talk about some interesting / outlandish / funny scenarios and try to figure out which book characters “win” each scenario. Thanks to The Book Cover Girl for tagging me!

Books in this Episode:

  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
  • It by Stephen King
  • Retrograde by Peter Cawdron
  • Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Their Eyes were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pet Semetary by Stephen King
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

For reference, here are the questions from the book tag on The Book Cover Girl’s blog!

P.S. – You can find me on iTunes. Depending on your preferred medium for listing, subscribing via iTunes or the Podcasts app on your phone might be the best way to get automatic Plotboilers updates!

Carve the Mark Book Review & New Years’ Writing Resolutions

Carve the MarkIn my last episode of 2017, I’ve reviewed Veronica Roth’s “Carve the Mark” and put together some tips and tricks for setting challenging yet achievable writing resolutions for 2018. (If I’m being totally honest, I really don’t like New Years’ resolutions – but improving yourself is always a good thing, right?)

Carve the Mark is, as I forgot to mention on the show, the first in a two-part series. (Duology?) It also hit bookstores in the wake of Roth’s super successful Divergent series. Now that I think about it, I’ve read a few post-break-out novels this year. Aka, books published after an emerging author’s breakout debut. I’m diving into genre, characters, world building and a lot more – so let’s see if Carve the Mark lives up to the fast-paced and fun expectations Divergent set. Happy New Year, bookish friends!

Books mentioned in this episode:

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

The Handmaid’s Tale Review and the Importance of Reaction Scenes

The Handmaid's Tale Book ReviewIn today’s episode, I’m reviewing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This book is not only one of Atwood’s most acclaimed novels, but the basis for the American television show by the same name. If you know anything about Margaret Atwood, you know she has a flair for dark, gritty, and utterly captivating dystopian and speculative fiction with a political or feminist slant. Sound intriguing? It is. But in order to get her ideas across effectively, it’s important to have good characters and story structure as well – and that’s exactly what I wanted to explore when I picked up this book.

Additionally, I’m taking a few minutes to talk about the importance of action and reaction scenes in novels. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a show and came away thinking “Wow, I don’t care about those people at all,” it’s possible the story failed to find its action/reaction stride. This not only applies to the individual scenes in your book (how they flow and push the story forward), but it also relates to the relationship between your book’s first and second half.

Books mentioned in this episode:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

PS – I also mention “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” but I’m talking about the movie, not the French comic book “Empire of a Thousand Planets.”

Dueling Book Reviews: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero and Artemis by Andy Weir

Meddling Kids Book ReviewToday, I’ve got a special treat for you: dueling book reviews! Okay, the books aren’t actually dueling. I’ve just been reading a lot and have a backlog of reviews to share. Today we’re talking about Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero and Artemis by Andy Weir.

How do I describe Meddling Kids? It’s basically a punchy, mystery throwback for people who grew up watching Scooby Doo. If that doesn’t sound awesome, I don’t know what does. On the other hand, delivering something that witty can be a challenge. Let’s see if Mr. Cantero is up for it!

Next up is Artemis by Andy Weir. In the wake of his wildly successful book, The Martian, Weir has a lot of expectations to meet – and critics have been pretty mixed in their reception. All that to say, a noir-style heist on the Moon is a pretty cool idea. One that’s at least worth exploring.

While I typically finish up PlotBoilers podcast episodes with a few thoughts on life as a writer, this one is all book-talk. Don’t worry: the writing life tips and tricks will be back next time!

Books Mentioned in this Episode

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Artemis by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Retrograde by Peter Cawdron

Into the Water Book Review & Plotting vs. Pantsing

Into the Water Book Review In today’s episode, I’m reviewing Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. You probably know Hawkins from her breakout novel, The Girl on the Train. But what you might not know is TGOTT isn’t actually her first book. It’s hard to not compare TGOTT with Into the Water, but I’ve done my best. On the other hand, there are some interesting comparisons and similarities between the books I found worth discussing.

For today’s “Writing Life” bit, I’m going over plotting and pantsing. If you don’t know what those are, the difference is pretty simple: Plotters outline their novels before they write; pantsers start with an idea and discover the story as they put it on the page. In reality, most people fall somewhere between these two extremes. (If you plotted every detail before you wrote, you’d technically already have a first draft – you know?) However, understanding which process is best for your next WIP is super important.

P.S. – This episode probably should have been titled “The Miracle” because, after recording it, my computer decided to completely stop workingCringe. I’m pretty sure it’s on its way out, but I was able to recover the episode audio file (and 20,000+ words of a work in progress – Whew). Just in case any of you are even remotely part of the IT industry, I’m not going to say how I got it working again – for the sake of my pride and your sanity. All that to say, if I’m a little late getting my next episode up, it means Black Friday didn’t go my way and I still don’t have a new computer. Life is full of adventures, isn’t it?

Books mentioned in this episode:

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Structuring Your Novel – K.M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel – K.M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel Workbook – K.M. Weiland

Story – Robert McKee


Halloween Book Recommendations and How to Be a Better Beta Reader

Halloween Book Recommendations and How to Be a Better Beta Reader

In today’s episode, I have five spooky and binge-worthy books for you to read this week, along with a few pointers on how to be a better beta reader.

First up: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. This was the first book I read by King, and it’s one of my favorites to this day. It’s pretty terrifying, but the final act will have you turning pages so fast you’ll get paper cuts.

My second recommendation is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you like paranormal anything, this one is for you. And since it’s on the shorter side, it doesn’t waste any time with scenes that aren’t going to have you jumping at your own shadow for a few days.

If you’re easily spooked, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James might be a better option. Originally published in 1898, this book is beautifully atmospheric. It also had me talking about it for weeks – so find a reading buddy to help you figure out what was actually going on in the story.

I’ve also included Unreal City by A. R. Meyering on my list. This book isn’t exactly a horror novel, but it is pretty creepy. What surprised me the most about it is the author’s ability to create startlingly intense dream sequences (they aren’t exactly dream sequences, per se, but you’ll understand what I mean when you read the book). If you’re into discovering lesser-known authors who pack a pretty good punch with their storytelling, check this one out.

Finally, I’m putting Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero on the list. I’m actually in the middle of reading it, but it shows promise so far, especially if you grew up loving mysteries as a kid. It’s not a kids book by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a playful, sarcastic tone that gives it youthful energy.