Join the First Draft Book Club as they virtually welcome USA Today Books Editor, Barbara VanDenburgh to discuss May’s Changing Hands staff pick.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel is a New York Times bestseller that follows Talia, a young girl being held in a Colombian correctional facility.
Against a ticking clock, Talia must devise a plan to meet up with her father, where their departure to the United States will bring renewed hope and safety for their family. Weaving Talia’s current story with the events of her parents Mauro and Elena’s lives, Infinite Country brings together various timelines against a backdrop of civil unrest and the reality of undocumented life.
Publisher: Ember Genre: YA Fiction, Psychological Thriller Pages: 320 Format: Paperback Buy Local Staff Rating: 4.5/5
This semester, we opted for safety and continued to hold our social event over Zoom. Last month, we all read E. Lockhart’s novel We Were Liars and then got together to share our reactions! We discussed the novel at length and wanted to share our thoughts with you.
Despite being published seven years ago, We Were Liars has been sweeping the internet these last few months. From the point of view of the protagonist, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, we are whisked into her world of summers on her grandfather’s private island. There, she joins her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and family friend, Gat for the perfect summer. But with the aunts fighting and kids being stuck in the middle, it is anything but the idyllic summer they were hoping for. Without giving too much away, we can tell you that everything is not as it seems on this island in paradise.
This novel was full of surprises and we couldn’t wait to go through all of them. While, for some of us, it wasn’t the first time reading it, we all found ourselves shocked at the turn of events. Those of us who had read it before pieced together the clues until our memory was jogged, and for those of us who didn’t know what was coming, it was mind-blowing. Our Staff Writer, Lauren said that while she was reading it for the second time, she “really appreciated how much the narration influenced the story and how events are revealed.” Personally, I hadn’t read the novel before and it was one of those moments where you have to stop reading and close the book because you can’t believe it.
Aside from the gripping storyline, the way Lockhart describes people and scenes is mesmerizing—her word choice truly carries you through the novel. We discussed some of her attention to detail in depth and something we pinpointed was that she very thinly walks the line of literal and metaphorical, so much so that there are spaces where the events feel real but with further context turn out to be metaphorical. Our Managing Editor, Jade, explained that she “loves the way that Lockhart explains the characters with the same symbols every time and how the repetition plays so heavily into the plot.” Lockhart truly has a way with words which couples beautifully with unfolding of the plot.
It’s hard to say specifics without giving away the plot, but know that you’re in for a treat if you pick this novel up.
Reddit is one of the most popular social media sites in the world because it provides a platform for almost anyone to talk about almost anything. There are subreddits for nearly every mainstream or niche hobby a person could think of—so yes, there are many, many great subreddits for book-lovers. Whatever book related advice, discussion, or personal anecdote you want to discover or share with others, Reddit has a platform for you. I’ve found many great subreddits during my time there. I’m going to share my five favorites, but by all means, feel free to dig into the hundreds of book-related communities Reddit has to offer to find the ones that are best for you!
r/suggestmeabook—This subreddit is essentially what you would expect: a community where you can ask for books suggestions. I’ve used a lot of websites and read many blog posts to find book suggestions in the past. Those were great sources for me when I had a vague idea of what I was looking for. I could read lists about the best new books of the year or best books about a certain topic or time period on blogs much like this one and discover some truly great reads. However, if you have a specific idea of what you’re looking to read next and you’re struggling to find it on a more general platform, r/suggestmeabook is the place to go. If you want “a book set in space with a strong female protagonist, a happy ending and an equally well-written sequel” or “a book with talking animals that isn’t written for children and also includes a healthy family dynamic” or even “a book based on a true story that I can read in a day and will make me cry by the end,” the members of this subreddit will find those books for you. There have been times where the requests are so specific I don’t think anyone could possibly suggest a book that fits all of the criteria, but they do. Every time. Try it out and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
r/shortscarystories— I cannot express how happy I was to discover this subreddit. It is a great subreddit which I encourage you to check out and it is r/shortscarystories is amazing for those of us who enjoy a well written scary story. This subreddit provides a platform for writers of any experience level to share their original scary stories. These stories must be longer than two sentences, but under 500 words, making them the perfect length to read on a lunch break, while waiting in line, or before going to bed (if you’re brave enough). I enjoy this subreddit because it’s a way for me to read stories I otherwise never would. Although they may not all be literary journal worthy, these stories are fun and a great way to fit in some reading time during a busy day.
r/bookshelf—This is yet another subreddit I’m grateful to have discovered. Members of this community post aesthetically pleasing pictures of their bookshelves daily. I love scrolling through new posts and seeing the effort people have put into arranging their shelves or seeing the new additions they’ve made to their collections. These posts range from pictures of expensive vintage collections, to single shelves of brightly colored spines and twinkling lights. Everyone can enjoy the diversity of the reading community through these posts and celebrate each other’s passion for reading. This subreddit is an all-around feel-good community of people sharing what they enjoy so that others can enjoy it, too. What’s not to love?
r/bookclub—Have you ever wanted to start a book club but you can’t get it off the ground? r/bookclub is a great solution to this problem. I enjoy this subreddit because it allows thousands of people to come together and share their thoughts about books. However, I also spend a lot of time in the comment sections of this subreddit because it’s a great place to find users who want to start niche book clubs. Many members will suggest starting book clubs for a certain series they’ve been wanting to read or a book club about a certain social topic they feel is important. r/bookclub is a great place to start when looking for a book club that fits your specific interests, or even for getting your own book club idea off the ground.
r/writingadvice—Although this subreddit is geared towards writers more than readers, there’s a place for all book-lovers in this community. As a writer, I enjoy posting short excerpts of my work to get feedback from other writers. However, even those who love reading but don’t post their own writing are invaluable to this subreddit. As a reader, you can read many great stories from amateur writers and give them your feedback. The perspective of a reader is valuable in the process of making revisions. The r/writingadvice community welcomes anyone who has a passion for good writing regardless of whether you are writing it yourself or just enjoying the work of your peers.
Are you hoping to meet more bookworms in your area? Changing Hands has answered your wishes with its latest book club: Long and Short of It. This new bimonthly club explores one book and one story collection that share a common theme in each interactive meeting.
The upcoming discussion features Chanelle Benz’s The Gone Dead and The Man Who Shot My Eye Out is Dead. Be sure to stop by Changing Hands before the meeting to pick up copies of the books. Then, meet fellow local book lovers at Changing Hands’ First Draft Book Bar to talk about your reads.
The Gone Dead – Chanelle Benz. Thirty years after her father dies unexpectedly in their Mississippi shack, Billie returns to her childhood home where she meets the McGees, a family who’s history has overlapped with her own family’s history in the days of slavery. As she reunites with this old home, she hears a disturbing rumor that motivates her to track down forgotten memories.
The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead – Chanelle Benz. The characters in this short story collection are each wildly different, but they all share a hunger for adventure that lands them in tricky situations, causing them to rethink morality, confront identity, and experience love. Some of the stories feature an outlaw, a 16th century monk, and a young Philadelphia boy’s incarcerated father.