Author Archives: susanideus

Bookstores in Our Future?

by Susan Ideus

One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through bookstores—large ones, small ones, whatever.  Being surrounded by new books, new authors, new ideas is a special delight. A bookstore always seems to me to be a haven of quiet in the company of kindred souls, a thoroughly pleasant way to spend time. I don’t always buy something—sometimes just the experience of perusing and craving (I try not to actually covet…) is enough. Of course, if you ask my dear hubby, he will most emphatic about stating that I’ve done my part over the years to financially support various bookstores.

Yet it seems the news is filled these days with stories of small independent book stores going out of business and  some of the big chain book retailers having big problems. Can you even envision a day when the brick and mortar bookstores are no more?

Online book sellers seem to maintain and even flourish, especially with the advent of e-books. I use the online services, sometimes for price and sometimes for e-books, but I cannot imagine not being able to go into an actual bookstore. It would be an enormous loss.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article (, Penguin CEO John Makinson talked about the difference in book owners, book readers and why he believes small independent book stores are still viable.

“…people will willingly pay a higher price in an independent bookshop knowing they can buy [the same book] for less down the road. That’s because consumers feel an emotional engagement with the bookstore and feel that bookstores are providing a public service as well as a commercial service. I see no evidence that independent bookstores will become obsolete. . .”

It follows that he sees similar differences in those readers who favor physical books over e-books.

“There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books. They love the experience. As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience”.

I’ve talked about those differences and preferences here in this column before, and it will be an ongoing discussion in the book industry as a way is found to accommodate all of us. Many readers, me included, have a foot in both camps.

Makinson speaks from a commercial perspective. I wondered how an author might feel about the present and future importance of bookstores to his/her livelihood. I fully realize that successful authors are business persons and marketing gurus as well, but they begin from a different point.  So, I decided to ask one of my favorites, prolific author and founder of Story Circle Network Susan Wittig Albert. She speaks to both the bookstore issue and to that reader who loves bound books. Thanks, Susan!

“Lots of people are buying books online, for the convenience, but plenty of readers still want to be engaged with their local bookstores. For example, I recently gave a talk and did a signing at the Book Spot, in Round Rock, TX, which was crowded with people who had come to get a book, browse the shelves, and look for new authors. At another store, a specialty mystery bookstore called Murder by the Book, in Houston, I spoke to an overflow crowd. Bookstores are important to authors, because booksellers “handsell” books to people who are looking for a new author to add to their libraries. They’re important to readers, too, who are convinced that there’s no substitute for a bound book with real paper pages that they can hold in their hands!”

I know that some of our readers are published authors as well. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how bookstores impact you. And, for all of our readers, let us know your thoughts on your favorite bookstores, why you shop there,  and your own book buying habits.

Until next time, good reading!!

Reading and Collecting

by Susan Ideus

I recently heard an excellent piece on NPR about collecting books. Caused me to think about my relationship with the books I own.

“I believe in buying books you can’t really afford. I’m not advocating fiscal irresponsibility, but if you’re going to make a big purchase, why not make it a book?.” So says Kristin Kelly in a recent NPR This I Believe oral essay titled Books at Any Cost. ( Such a lover of books is Ms. Kelly that she still owns a 1970s television, content to be entertained by her books instead. And while she does make use of libraries as a reader and as a college professor, she says “…I know that there is something mysterious and spiritual in owning your own good books, in spending your earthly money for a piece of heavenly art to pass down to future generations to say: This is what I loved. And I wonder if you will love, it too?” Spoken like a true bibliophile! I have two grown daughters who could happily fit into such a household. Indeed, they are each lovingly building their own personal book collections. They, along with Ms. Kelly, might appreciate this sentiment as well:

Tough choices face the biblioholic at every step of the way–like choosing between reading and eating, between buying new clothes and buying books, between a reasonable lifestyle and one of penurious but masochistic happiness lived out in the wallow of excess.~Tom Raabe, Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction


Now, I do love reading. Anyone who knows even a little bit about me knows that.  I always have my nose in a book. I’m addicted to reading. Can’t imagine my life without it. I also own many books.  I love beautiful books, finely crafted books, lovely old books. However, I don’t collect them, in the sense of a true bibliophile as mentioned above. I don’t have shelves of classics, and I have only a few books that I keep because I might re-read them. Included are some reference books that I keep close as I write.

The books on my shelves at any given time reflect who I am at that point in my life. One of Ms. Kelly’s statements really resonates with me: “Good books age with you; they bend and flex with your life experiences.” Those experiences determine the contents of my bookshelves.

When I first married, I began collecting cookbooks. Thirty-odd years ago, I had a big collection on babies and parenting. Next would have come lots of crafting and sewing books. Followed by parenting again—teenagers this time around.  I then circled back around to cookbooks, a little more on the gourmet and inventive level.  In the last few years, my shelves have filled with books on writing and memoir. Through it all, I’ve had a current selection of novels of varied genre, current bios and memoirs, and other books which piqued my interest at the time. As my interests have changed and evolved, I’ve given books to libraries, churches, shelters, friends and family. Good books should be used and shared, in my opinion.

When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness. ~Jules Renard


Where do you find yourself on this spectrum from dedicated bibliophile to avid reader/book lover?

Speaking of a plethora of books…

Announcing a new SCBR feature–Briefly Reviewed: We receive more wonderful books than we can possibly review. Here is a selection of titles, briefly described, that represent the wide range of recently-published memoirs written by strong women who have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. Recommended!

Kudos to Our Team

by Susan Ideus

I present to you a group of approximately 52 women who volunteer their time to read books and write reviews of them–books that are sent to them by StoryCircleBookReviews or books that they have found on their own which they feel merit a review that will bring it to the attention of SCBR readers. They faithfully check the SCBR database to find out what books appeal to them and/or one that will challenge them or teach them something new.

Once they have a book to review, they read it carefully, make notes, mark passages and make a decision about whether the book is one worthy to be reviewed for SCBR. (We don’t review all books sent to us–only the best, in terms of quality and content.) Some of the guidelines (from our website) they must consider are:  1) Our reviews are designed to guide readers to books they will find valuable and enjoyable.  2) All books must meet professional standards of content and editorial preparation.  3) Reviews should be about your own personal experience of reading the book. In what important ways did you connect with it? What did the book teach you or help you to see about your own life? How might it help other women? Reviews should go deeper and help readers understand the “why” of the book, not just the “what.”

That’s a lot to keep in  mind when reading, not a casual process, but it is gratifying and enjoyable to these women who take on this task. They spend time and effort and share their hard work with everyone who visits the SCBR site. It’s a talented and dedicated group, and I wanted to share with you some of what they do once they sign on with SCBR. We appreciate them so much–and we want you all to know that.

One of our most active Star Reviewers is Lee Ambrose. She recently passed a huge milestone with us. She became a “NovaStar”, which means she has completed at least 75 reviews and interviews for SCBR. She is in elite company here as only two other reviews have attained or passed this mark. Just imagine the above described process carried out times 75 and you have an idea of a reviewer’s depth of commitment. Amazing!

Here are Lee’s own words: I am passionate about words! I enjoy reviewing books for the SCN Book Review Site almost as much as I enjoy reading the reviews posted by my sister reviewers. Reading and writing are such an important part of my life that I cannot imagine a day without actively reading or writing—or both! When I am not immersed in “word-working” I am enjoying nature or working as a travel RN. I have been an active member of the Story Circle Network’s Internet Chapter since 2000. Currently, I write for the poetry e-circle and one writing e-circle, facilitate two writing circles, and serve as the President of the Internet Chapter (2004-present).

At this moment, we celebrate Lee’s accomplishment and offer her congratulations. She is just one example of why Story Circle Book Reviews is gaining increased readership daily as well as recognition and respect from publishers and authors.

Share your good wishes for Lee in our comment section and express your appreciation for our entire team. They certainly are deserving.

Until next time, good reading to all.

Summertime…and the reading is great!

by Susan Ideus

Temperature-wise, if not by the calendar, summer is arriving. Kids out of school, longer days, and vacations. What’s on your agenda this year? How do books and reading fit into your plans?

Is summer a time for leisure reading? Lighter novels instead heavier non-fiction fare perhaps? When you pack for that long-awaited family vacation, are books included? Maybe some of you make sure to pack the charger for your e-reading device and/or extra batteries for your book lights. (By the way, has anyone tried those nifty new lighted reading specs? Hmmmm…) Can you read in the car? I can for hours on end and never notice the motion, or the time passing. My younger daughter, on the other hand, becomes quite ill reading while traveling in a car–very frustrating for her.

What about the kids? Now that school is out, are they reading? Do they have a reading list from school to work through? That never happened eons ago when my girls were in school, so they had lots of time to read books of their choice for a few months–and they always took advantage of that. I hope the kids in your life get to spend many pleasurable hours reveling in reading.

Do you ever visit bookstores as you travel? I can’t seem to pass one by! They just call to me. Right now, most will have special summer displays–“beach reads”, summer reading for the kids, and all kinds of books about summer be it traveling, grilling, gardening, or leisure-time hobbies and activities. And some stores will offer special reading incentive programs. It’s fun just to look at all the offerings.

Likewise many public libraries have summer reading programs. Those are especially nice for those planning the “stay-cation” kind of family break. I read about a family who spent several pleasurable days in their library planning a pretend round-the-world trip. Each family member got to pick his/her most wished-for destination, learn about it, and plan a stay there. Ah, the magic of books!

Books can be a special part of any season’s plans, but summertime just says reading to me. Drop us a note in the comments section and let us know about your favorite summer reading practices. If you need book suggestions, go to the StoryCircleBookReview site for the latest in reviews and interviews.

Until next time, here’s wishing you sublime summer reading!

Read Early; Read Often

by Susan Ideus

Recently I picked up a copy of the library newsletter Book Page, a national publication mixing local library news and events with book reviews and the latest in book news. I read these from cover to cover; this month my interest was piqued by an article by Heidi Murkoff titled “Raising a Reader”.

As one who grew up risking maternal wrath by reading under the bedcovers with a flashlight, and as a mother who read to her children in utero and far beyond, I am passionate about promoting the issue of reading to and reading with young children. It’s never too early to begin. I don’t know whether my pre-born daughters were soothed and comforted by my reading to them, but I certainly was–and I know that there is still a lot we don’t know about the workings of the learning mind, so why not? At feeding times and cuddle times, I often read aloud to my infant girls. I know it calmed them then, and they were exposed to books from their earliest possible moments. I read to them, and when they began to learn, they read to me and to one another. (This photo is my daughter Becca reading to her buddy, Corwynn Shafer, in 2002. He is now one of the brightest young readers I know. Photo by his mom, Alison)

Murkoff has some good suggestions: read often, keeps different kinds of books available and accessible, repeat favorite books (repetition can make early learning of skills easier), use your library, read to yourself (to raise a reader, be a reader), make it fun, power off (no iPads or TV or computers for at least part of everyday), and my favorite, make reading interactive.

Why do I like this suggestion so much? I love to read and I love to discuss what I read. Even if your child is too young to actually read, he/she can participate. Ask questions–where is the bunny? What do you think the mommy is saying? Which one is blue?  Why is the puppy sad? How do you think the story should end? As your child begins to learn the alphabet, point out key words–maybe one letter a day. All of these activities will prepare your child for reading. Books should be familiar and loved before a child ever goes to school.

When your child is reading on his/her own, read some of the same books. Discussions about books can lead to fascinating insights into your child’s world. You can be interested in a book without seeming to pry (touchy times with teens, right?) My girls and I could talk about books when all other subjects were off limits. I know an SCN member who participates in a mother-daughter book club. What a marvelous idea!

In the same issue of Book Page, there is a short interview with children’s author Mo Willems. He said his favorite words to live by are “Think of your friends, not for them.” For me, this expresses perfectly this idea of interactive reading. Teaching your child to think about what he/she is reading is invaluable. Learning to think for oneself is a process and what better way to begin than by incorporating it into your child’s earliest reading experiences?

Need some suggestions for children’s/teens’ books? Check our website. We are always looking for good books for children and teens. Book Page has a section on children’s books as well and can be accessed online. Your librarian can be a valuable resource for age appropriate reading as can your child’s teacher.

Read to a child whenever you can. It will be rewarding for both of you!

Tell us about your favorite children’s books–amd your favorite experiences reading to a child.

Until next time, good reading to all.

What the World Needs Now is Love…of Reading

by Susan Ideus

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry…
~Emily Dickinson


In my last posts, I’ve been talking about why we read. Many of you shared your motivations. This week, I thought it might be fun and instructive to see what some well-known authors had to say about books and reading.

Reading is one of my earliest memories as it might well be for many of you. Parents, grandparents, caretakers–all are instrumental in presenting reading as a beloved activity for the children of the world.

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. ~Jacqueline Kennedy


You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.  ~Madeleine L’Engle


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.  ~Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves,” New York Times, 7 August 1991


The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.  ~Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

(I know the last one is not by a woman but considering the source, I thought you’d allow me the liberty…)

Once out of childhood and on our way to self-discovery, many of us found refuge as well as lasting knowledge in what we read.

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.     ~Maya Angelou


From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover you have wings.  ~Helen Hayes


Books continue to teach us, to inform us, to entertain us, to form our very beings. It’s a lifetime love, a lifetime process. We are active participants as we choose what to read.

A book burrows into your life in a very profound way because the experience of reading is not passive.  ~Erica Jong, O Magazine, 2003


We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.  ~Ursula K. LeGuin


Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.  ~Angela Carter


Books are like lobster shells. We surround ourselves with them, then we grow out of them and leave them behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.  ~Dorothy L. Sayers

I love that lobster shell analogy, don’t you?

In closing, I’ll leave you with two quotes by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. If you have quotes about reading or books that you’d like to share, please do so in the comment section. I’d love to hear them!

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.  ~Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)


Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship. ~Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

To a Job Well Done

by Susan Ideus

Whether it’s one of the editors you ask or a member of the reviewers’ team, I believe the common thread that keeps all of us at Story Circle Book Reviews going is our love of books and the written word. Beyond that, there is the desire to communicate that love to others and to entice them to read a particular work, hoping that it will enrich the reader’s experience as much as it has the reviewer’s. Speaking for myself, it’s a personal pleasure to participate.

That being said, it is, nonetheless, always rewarding when someone takes the time to recognize the work that a reviewer has done, or the effort that SCBR makes to present the best in women’s literature, championing small press authors. This past week, we were fortunate to receive several such communications.

Recently, Linda Hoye reviewed Jennifer Lauck’s new book Found, a memoir about adoption, loss, reunion and reconciliation, and healing. Linda, bringing her own experiences as an adoptee to the table, wrote an outstanding review of the book, and not long after, received a note from the author.  In her note, Ms. Lauck said:

Thank you for this stunning look into Found.  I am touched beyond what I can say.  You have simply nailed it. 

As a writer, as I am sure you know, there is a quiet place where story whispers forward in us and in this place there is also a horrible insecurity.   I just don’t know…with my head..if I’ve nailed it.  I just can’t know.  That’s why I rely on my agent/editor and my group of support, to help me do my very best.  And still, I don’t know.

So, you see what I tried to do and more, it helped in some way to increase the conversation.  That’s the best I can hope for. 

Thank you, so much, for your careful and considered words.

Of course, all of us at SCBR think the praise is well-deserved and the recognition stunningly stated. Kudos to Linda! If you’d like to know more about Ms. Lauck and her books, her website is here.

From a slightly different perspective, we received a query from author Kathleen Gerard  who wanted SCBR to consider her new book for review.  It seems that she was already familiar with the site because this is what she had to say:

The reviews on your site are smart and thoughtful. They offer perceptive, well-balanced insight into the kinds of books I love to read. I often refer to SCBR to discover new books and authors whose work reflects strong women protagonists and the challenges/triumphs they face.

Just as Linda “nailed” the heart and message of the book she reviewed, so Ms. Gerard articulated the heart and intent of what we are so passionate about at SCBR. Thank you, Ms. Gerard!

It’s been a good week at SCBR. As always, we have new books arriving nearly every day, and Spring appears to be a great season for women’s literature. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest reviews and/or follow us on Facebook.

If you would like to join our wonderful team of reviewers, let us hear from you. Everything you need to know about becoming a reviewer is here.

Until next time, happy reading to all of you, dear readers!