I’m honored to feature Julie Graves. She posts reviews at her fun site, My Favorite Pastime.
Julie was born and raised in my home state of California, but she’s lived in Oklahoma the last eighteen years. She spends her days with her sweetheart of thirty years, who retired three years ago. Before she retired herself, Julie worked as a library assistant, first in an elementary school and later in a middle school. Although they’re Empty Nesters now, Julie and her husband raised two beautiful daughters. Their oldest daughter is married to a youth pastor, and they have three children. Those grandchildren make Julie’s “eyes sparkle.” Their youngest daughter works as a manager at a Barnes and Noble store. It’s clear a love of books runs in the family.
I asked Julie three questions about her reading and review process. After that, you’re in for a treat, because you get to learn three fun things about the woman behind the reviews. And don’t miss Julie’s giveaway at the bottom of the post.
Reading and Reviewing
You’ve reviewed hundreds of novels.
What makes a story stand out and become one of your favorites?
So many things contribute to making a story stand out and become a favorite of mine. If a story grabs my attention from the very beginning, it has a good chance of becoming a favorite. If I connect with the characters in some way, that helps. If there is a strong spiritual aspect (in the Christian books I read) that is believable and offers redemption of a favorite character, that story becomes a favorite. If I remain engaged throughout the entire story and don’t want to put the book down until the end, that book becomes a favorite. If I think about the story for a while after I finish and I miss the characters, it becomes a favorite.
I have to say that I also like a polished story. If there are a lot of editing issues, even though I may like the story, it probably won’t become a favorite for me because those types of issues take me out of the story and disrupt the flow. Does each story I read have to have ALL of those elements to become a favorite? No, each story is unique in some way and has the potential of becoming a favorite.
If there’s an aspect of a story you don’t care for, you address it, but you do so with kindness and respect. How do you balance a reader’s desire for an honest review with your heart for the author of the work?
Such a good question! I’ve struggled with this off and on throughout my blogging experience. I have written some scathing reviews (when I first started blogging) that, when I look back, I think how awful that was of me to say. The more mature (older) I have become, the more I have learned that there are ways of saying things that aren’t hurtful but do get the point across and offer an honest opinion. I don’t feel the need any longer to tear an author’s work apart.
I’ve kind of adopted the policy that if I don’t like a book then it is okay to set it aside. I don’t need to rip it apart in a scathing review. Honestly, I’ve seen too much of that, and over the years I’ve decided that I’d rather not review a book than go for the jugular of an author who has put their blood, sweat and tears into a book. Not every book is for me, not every book is going to be my cup of tea, so when one isn’t, I set it aside. Again, there are ways of saying things without attacking, and I think that comes with age, experience and, dare I say, wisdom?
When and where do you do most of your reading?
A fun question! I have a book with me pretty much wherever I go. I have a Kindle and I have the Kindle App on my phone. So I can read anywhere! My most favorite place to read is in bed. That is why I love my Kindle so much! Before I had a Kindle I couldn’t read in bed because my husband would go to bed early and no light could be on. NOW I can read as long as I want, and the light from my Kindle doesn’t disturb his sleep. So I do most of my reading at night from about 8-11:30 or so.
I try to read some during the day, but I get distracted with other things and can’t concentrate as well as I can when everything is quiet. With the Kindle App on my phone, I can read when I go to appointments, when we are sitting and waiting to pick up our grandchildren at school or basically any time I have time on my hands but am not at home.
Three Fun Facts About Julie
I’ve always thought working in a library would be a lot of fun. What did you enjoy most about the library assistant positions you’ve held? What did you find the most surprising?
I loved interacting with the students. I loved connecting with them over a good book. I loved recommending something that I knew they would love and then hearing back from them that they actually did love it.
I worked in both an elementary library and a middle school library. The thing I loved about the elementary library was the little ones coming in and hauling out these HUGE books that were almost too big for them to carry. Most weren’t interested in a novel, most were interested in the non-fiction picture find books or information books.
When I was at the middle school, I loved that it was like talking to adults. I could tease them, I could be sarcastic with them, and they would “get” me. The thing I found the most surprising was the fact that not everyone wanted to read. I started reading books on my own when I was ten and loved it, but there were students who hated reading. I just couldn’t understand that. I still don’t understand that. I recently had an adult tell me that he has read maybe two books in his entire lifetime. Wow! Just wow! People like him are missing so much!
I noticed on Facebook that you like to bake and recently whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. My husband and I met over a plate of his chocolate chip cookies–without nuts, so this particular cookie holds a special place in my heart. Do you bake yours with or without nuts? What other sweet treats do you like to make?
Well, I do like nuts in my cookies, but I usually don’t put nuts in them because I save the pecans I keep in the freezer for other desserts. Nuts are really pricey! So, no nuts in the chocolate chip cookies. When I bake for Christmas, I use nuts in different types of cookies. Usually pecans because I’ve found they are milder on my stomach than walnuts.
Our oldest daughter and her family come over for dinner on Thursday nights, and I’ve been trying out different desserts. Last week I made mini lemon pie desserts. I used lemon curd and then lemon pudding mixed with cool whip as filling. They turned out yummy. I had some leftover shells, so I whipped up some chocolate ganache and put that into the cups. YUM!
I’m always finding recipes on Facebook for different desserts and different meals to try. At one time, I maintained a blog of things that I had cooked, but I don’t do that anymore. I do make a menu for the entire month and incorporate desserts throughout.
At Christmas time I wear myself out baking. Each year I say “this is the last time,” but then the year rolls around, and I start all over again, because my family and friends start asking me to make different things for them. My favorite desserts have chocolate in them. I know you gave up chocolate years ago, Keli, I wish I had your willpower!
I discovered that you are a huge fan of a certain spy who is known by his name as well as his number. Yes, that would be “Bond, James Bond,” aka 007. Just how gone on him are you, and when did this fascination with the famous fellow begin?
This made me laugh! I do have a rather addictive nature, so series of books and series of movies are two of my addictions. Yes, I’m a huge fan of the Bond movies. In fact, I have every one of them except for the newest one, which I think is Spectre. This collection was started this last Christmas when our son-in-law bought my husband three of the older Bond movies starring Sean Connery. Then it just snow-balled from there because, of course, I had to get more, and then it became an obsession to collect all of them.
Actually there have been six men who have portrayed James Bond over the years, I think. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig. As far as being “gone” on any of them, I would have to say that Pierce Brosnan was my favorite Bond. But that is only because I’ve had a crush on him since I was a kid and he played Remington Steele! Ha! Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig are my least favorite Bonds. I’ve always loved spy-type movies and books and had seen a few of the Bond movies while growing up, but now I have seen all but the last three with Daniel Craig.
Julie’s Question for You
Is there a movie series or book series that you have become fascinated with that made you just HAVE to collect the entire series?
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I’m honored that Julie has chosen to give away
a print copy of my latest release, A Home of Her Own.
Use the Rafflecopter entry form below.
Giveaway ends Sunday, April 25 at 12 a.m. PDT.
Winner to be announced here on April 27.
Must be 18 to enter. International OK. Void where prohibited.