Michelle Black understands that books are to be treated with caution, for they contain one of the most dangerous elements on earth. They contain ideas. One of those ideas catapulted her into a three month long mission trip to Ireland, and another provoked her to try creating her own stories. Books, while dangerous, have always fascinated her. This hunger was fed recently as she had the opportunity to travel to the Lilly Library in Bloomington Indiana. There, she handed a cuneiform tablet from the year 4,000 B.C., illuminated manuscripts from the year 1250 A.D., and a Shakespeare first folio from the year 1625 A.D.
When Michelle isn’t shoulder-deep in adjectives and plot points, she works as the social media content writer and event-coordinator for an independent Christian bookstore. There are two things she loves about her job, the first is sharing Christ Jesus with those who walk into the store, and the second thing is introducing readers to books that will challenge them, change them, and fill them with ideas.
She also maintains a blog of thoughts on writing, faith, and everything in between at http://scarletinkwell.wordpress.com
SOTP: Why did you start reviewing?
Michelle: Working in an Independent Christian Bookstore, I was giving suggestions to customers all the time about what books I felt were worth reading. I was doing verbal reviews long before I started writing them down. Being in the industry too, I see a lot of slush/fluff books that won’t hurt you, but won’t challenge your thinking or make you look at what you really believe about life. They’re like cotton candy; good for a treat but a steady diet of them will begin to rot your insides. I also am working on writing my stories, which think allows me an ambidextrous perspective on books.
The writer half of my imagination looks at all of the tools and tricks, the click-clack-click of the story mechanism the author has built behind the curtain of the tale, and the reader part of my imagination sits and stares in wonder as the characters and scenes move across the stage.
The first place I had reviews published, was The Christian Manifesto. I was delighted to have a place where I could voice my opinion and interact with others who loved books but were hungry for more than just the standard fair they wanted a good read.
Which brings up the point, what makes a book a good read?
To me, a book that makes me forget I am reading, is a book worth reading. I gravitate towards books that have multifaceted characters, interesting moral worlds, and endings that are in some way happy. The protagonist doesn’t have to save the day, but there has to be some level of hope at the end of the story or justice meted out in order for me to be satisfied. Life has enough open-ended heartache; I want my books to have a resolution.
SOTP: Have your tastes changed since you started reviewing?
Michelle: No, though I do find I’m enjoying a well-written antagonist more than I used to do. If anything, I think reviewing has taken away my tolerance for sloppiness in books. By that I mean plot that isn’t paced consistently, characters that do things out of character because the plot needs them to, and over used tropes.
SOTP: What book has surprised you the most in your reviewing (Perhaps something you wouldn’t normally have picked up, outside of your comfort genre, etc.)
Michelle: Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker floored me, and in the best way possible. The book is categorized as YA fiction/historical fiction/religious fiction but it reads more like literature. Her depth of character, pacing, and the way she handled her words was an exquisite treat. It was not what I was expecting; it was so much better.
SOTP: What is the first book you remember reading? (It still counts if someone else read it to you if you were too young to read!)
Michelle: The first book I remember having read to me/the first book I read is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. We read it around the table after dinner as a family, a chapter a night. When it got to the part where Aslan tells Lucy and Susan to cover their ears because he feels a roar coming on, I covered my ears. I was living the story, not listening to it. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe became a part of me, as the very best stories do.
SOTP: If you’re stuck at home on a sick day, what comfort book can you count on to always cheer you up?
Michelle: Anything by Agatha Christie
SOTP: If you could only read one book for the rest of your life (I know, the horror!), which book do you think you could read a hundred times without getting bored of it?
Michelle: Let me preface my answer by saying you aren’t supposed to read plays. You just aren’t. It’s like reading the script from a movie instead of watching it. However, if I were stuck reading one book for the rest of time, it would be the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It has comedy, tragedy, history, mystery, romance, and out and out silliness. Plus it boasts some of the most amazing sonnets of all time. I could read it a thousand times and never be bored. I love how Shakespeare uses language, and after all these years his work still moves audiences because he understood that while times change, people don’t. But unless you are going to be marooned on a desert island with no hope of rescue, please don’t read his plays, go see them performed.