How many pack horse librarian books is too many?

Image from Wednesday’s Women website

Oh, dear.

A whiff of scandal has just come to my attention, and it involves one of my go-to authors.

It seems that the new novel by Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars, may have just a wee bit too much in common with a book published earlier this year, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Robinson.

A friend just sent me this link from Buzzfeed about the “alarming similarities” between the two books. And while I haven’t read The Giver of Stars yet (my hold request just came in at the library), hearing this makes me pause a bit.

I read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek when it came out, and loved it. (My review is here). It’s a personal, intimate look at the life of a pack horse librarian in Kentucky during the Depression.

 

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people–a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman’s chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.

And guess what? Jojo Moyes’s new book is ALSO about a pack horse librarian in Kentucky during the Depression.

 

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job—bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

And sure, two authors could work on two completely separate novels at the same time and have them be about the same subject, time period, historical area of interest, etc. But the BuzzFeed piece makes it sounds like the similarities go beyond general subject matter.

I was all queued up to read the new Jojo Moyes book, because hey, I read ALL her new books. But I must admit, I knew nothing about the actual plot before reading this article today, other than that it was set in the US and was historical fiction. Now I’m not so sure that I want to read it. Even if the similarities are completely innocent, I feel like I already read one excellent book about a pack horse librarian — I’m not feeling like I need another right now!

What do you think? Are you familiar with either book? Have you read either one… and if you’re planning to, does this information change your feelings at all?

I haven’t decided yet what to do about the book sitting at the library waiting for me… I’ll probably still pick up my hold copy of The Giver of Stars and at least start it, but between the hints of something being off here and the fact that this might be repetitive storytelling for me, I’m not sure that my heart is in it any more.

Would love to hear other readers’ thoughts on this!

Note: The photo above, as well as lots of terrific information on the Pack Horse Librarian project, can be found on the Wednesday’s Women website at https://wednesdayswomen.com/good-reads-in-wild-places-the-wpas-pack-horse-librarians/ 

Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

tulips-65036_1280

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Unpopular Bookish Opinions. I’m a little stymied by the topic — I’m not sure that I have any bookish opinions that would truly qualify as unpopular… but here goes:

1 – I’m not fond of the genre described as literary fiction. What makes something literary? Versus what, non-literary fiction? And what does that even mean? Too often, I’ve found that books described as literary fiction are really just books where the writing gets in the way of a straight-forward plot.

2 – I’m not a fan of reading challenges. I know lots of people find challenges fun, but I look at them as an obligation. Every time I’ve committed to a reading challenge, I’ve ended up feeling resentful that my reading choices were being dictated to me.

3 – I say a big HECK YES to DNFing. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable. If a book isn’t working for me, I’d much rather stop than waste any more time on it.

4 – Sometimes, TV adaptations can be better than the books! Especially when well done or when a TV version expands the storyline beyond the plot of the original, it can be so engrossing to see how far the characters and situations can develop.

5 – I don’t like trigger warnings in book reviews. I understand they can be important for some readers, but I often find them overly broad or too spoiler-y. I prefer to know next to nothing about plot details when I’m starting a book. Maybe reviewers on Goodreads could use the spoiler formatting to hide the content of their trigger warnings, so only people who want to know will see them? Just a thought.

6 – Book signings should be free. Okay, maybe this isn’t actually an unpopular opinion — but over the last few years, there were several times when bookstores in my area charged admission to an author event, justifying it by saying it included the purchase of the book. But what if someone already has a copy? Or maybe someone wants to hear the author speak and then decide if they want the book?

7 – I hated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Just hated it. Hated the writing, hating the sense of wallowing in the violence. I know people loved this book and series, but I just could not.

8 – Sometimes series can drag on too long. And why does everything have to be a series? I get really frustrated by continuing stories that really could have been told in one solid book.

9 – Just because something is called a classic doesn’t mean I need to read it. Take the Great American Read list. I’ve read a bunch, there are a bunch I want to read, and there are some I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

10 – Okay, for sure this one doesn’t really qualify as an unpopular opinion, but… I read for me. I read what I like, when I feel like it. No “shoulds” allowed when it comes to picking my books! I don’t care how much praise a book gets, if it doesn’t appeal to me, then I’m out.

Do you have any unpopular bookish opinions? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

Bookish bits & bobs

 

Just a random collection of some bookish thoughts bouncing around my brain this week.

 

 

 

  • Audiobooks. Love ’em. But here’s my issue: Why don’t audiobooks include the acknowledgements or author’s notes at the end? If I’m listening to a book, I want the full experience and full content. I only discovered the lack recently after listening to a couple of historical fiction audiobooks. I ended up browsing through the hardcovers at the library, and saw that the print books includes notes about the historical setting and context. Well, why wasn’t that on the audiobook? It adds to the reading experience, and clearly the author felt it was part of what she wanted readers to know. I don’t understand… and it makes me mad. Not that I’ll stop listening to audiobooks, but it leaves me wondering what I’m missing.

 

  • Book review ratings: I don’t do them. At least, not here on my blog. I play along on Goodreads, but I made the decision way back when to do narrative reviews without any sort of quantitative scale. Lately, though, I’ve started rethinking this. I know when I read reviews on other people’s blogs, I’ll often check the star (or unicorn or banana or teacup) rating first, and then decide if I want to read the whole review. So shouldn’t I expect others to expect the same from me? This is a bigger question than just a few lines and a bullet point, so I’ll be expanding on the topic sometime in the coming week, and would love some input.

 

  • Amazon customer service rocks! I have never had a bad experience once I connect with a service rep, and this week was no different. I bought a Kindle edition of a new release in early April, and started reading it this week. And hated it. By 15%, I just knew I couldn’t continue. And I was mad, because it was past the one-week deadline for returning Kindle content. I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. It’s not the amount spent was going to break me or anything, but if I’m spending money on a book, I don’t want it to end up being something I actively dislike. Anyway… I reached out and ended up in a chat with a lovely and helpful Amazon rep, who arranged to return the book for a refund within the blink of an eye. No quoting policy, no trying to convince me of anything, no telling me I was wrong. Just a very nice “I’m sorry the book didn’t work out for you” and a resolution that made me happy.

 

  • When is a novella a novella? When is it really, instead, a short novel? Is 200 pages the dividing line? 125? I haven’t found a hard and fast rule to go by — I’ve found a lot of notes on word count in novels and novellas, but I’m a reader, not a writer. Do you have any firm ideas on what distinguishes a novella from a novel?

 

  • Oh, the things a book lover will do for the sake of bookish satisfaction. I’m a big fan of Susanna Kearsley’s writing, and beside the glory of the stories themselves, I adore the covers of her books.

Well, now she has a new book coming out, Bellewether, and I knew I needed a copy. I preordered it ages ago (the book releases in August), then discovered that the US cover is… well… unappealing. But hey, the Canadian cover is gorgeous and goes with the rest of my books! So I cancelled my US preorder, and got a copy from Amazon Canada instead, which gave me the added bonus of getting the book early, since it released in Canada this month already. And really, which of these would YOU want?

Anyhoo… that’s what’s on my mind today. How about you? What deep bookish thought are bouncing about in your brain?

 

And seriously. What is up with audiobooks and the lack of afterwords and notes? Can someone please make them fix this? Annoyed now.