Readers become reviewers for ‘Tale’ book

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor

Readers of this year’s “A Tale for Three Counties” book will again have a chance to win lunch with the featured author.

Six winners of a book review contest sponsored by The Daily News will gather March 11 at the D&R Depot, Lake Street, Le Roy, for lunch with author Julia Spencer-Fleming and a discussion of her book, In the Bleak Midwinter.

The contest, said Leslie DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, who started “A Tale for Three Counties” will help bring new ideas to other readers.

“We all see different things when we read a book,” she said. “And when you start to talk about it, there may be an ‘ahhh’ moment where you discover a new angle.”

Spencer-Fleming’s book introduces Clare Fergusson, a recently-ordained Episcopal priest, and former Army helicopter pilot, and the fictional small town of Miller’s Kill. When Clare discovers a baby abandoned at the church, she teams with the police chief to find the baby’s mother, who is later found murdered.

The community reading project, in its third year among libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, encourages area residents to read the same book and discuss it. In March, Spencer-Fleming will visit the area for a series of discussions and book-signings.

The winners of the book review contest will have a more personal experience with the author.

“It will be really nice to have a chance to sit and have a good conversation with her,” DeLooze said.

Contest entries are now being accepted at The Daily News.

Reviews of 150 words or less must be submitted using an official entry form that can be found in The Daily News. Today, it appears on page B-3 in today’s editions.

An entry form is also included in a special section to be published Jan. 15 that includes the first chapter of In the Bleak Midwinter.

Reviews must be received at The Daily News by Feb. 10.

Winners will be chosen by the “Tale” organizing committee. The committee will be looking for the reader’s reaction to the book overall, or something as specific as a theme or a character, and how effectively that reaction is expressed in writing.

Some reviews or excerpts will be published in the Lifestyles/Extra section of the newspaper.

“A big part of the project is discussing the book, whether with a neighbor or in one of the groups. And one way to talk about it, is to write about it and share your opinion,” DeLooze said.

How to write a review

Writing a review should not be intimidating. Remember, this isn’t a homework assignment. It’s not a book report. The contest judges simply want you to express your own feelings toward the book.

When writing your review, describe and evaluate the story. But remember, a description is not a summary of events.

Most of all, the contest judges want to know your personal response to In the Bleak Midwinter.

Here are five points to help you organize your thoughts:

  • What did you like or not like about the novel?
  • Perhaps you reacted strongly to a particular part of the story. What was it, and why did you react that way?
  • What did you find surprising?
  • Are the characters realistic and interesting, or do they seem “flat”? Do they change over the course of the novel?
  • What goal or goals do you think the author had in writing this novel? How well does she achieve them?

Questions to think about

Here are five things to consider when reading In the Bleak Midwinter:

  • The novel begins with Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Does that create certain expectations for you? Were those expectations met?
  • Does Clare change from the beginning to the end of the story? How?
  • Describe the character of Russ Van Alstyne. What are his shortcomings? His strengths? How does the Vietnam War shape his outlook on life?
  • Are the vestry members typical of small-town citizens? Why or why not?
  • What events of the book stood out for you?

Libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties are stocking extra copies of the book for loan, and many libraries also have copies that can be purchased.

There will be many opportunities to join in book discussions, which run through March 8. Discussions begin Feb. 7 with a 1 p.m. gathering at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina. A total of 17 discussions will precede Spencer-Fleming’s visits March 10 to 12, when she will present four programs in each of the three counties.

Julia Spencer-Fleming Web site:

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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