Meet Book Blogger – Jen Forbus

I’m pleased to introduce you to Jen Forbus of Jen’s Book Thoughts.  Her blog is on the shortlist for Best Thriller/Mystery/Suspense Blog for this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards.  (On Thursday we’ll find out if she won!)  I had the opportunity to interview Jen as part of the week’s festivities.  Jen lives in Ohio and is pictured here with author Michael Koryta.  This was a fun interview and I hope you enjoy it!

Jen and author Michael Koryta
Jen and author Michael Koryta


Amber: Do you have any reading quirks?  (For example, once I find an author I like I find it difficult to read their books out of order.)


Jen Forbus: If I’m reading in a series, I definitely have to read it in order.  There have been a couple series I’ve tried to read out of order because I couldn’t get access to the books in order.  It just isn’t the same. 


I NEVER read the last page until I actually get there. 

Amber: Do you have any reading quirks?  (For example, once I find an author I like I find it difficult to read their books out of order.)


Jen Forbus: If I’m reading in a series, I definitely have to read it in order.  There have been a couple series I’ve tried to read out of order because I couldn’t get access to the books in order.  It just isn’t the same. 


I NEVER read the last page until I actually get there. 


I have a tendency to mark in pencil passages that really stand out to me for one reason or another.  Obviously I can’t do that when I’m reading a loaner book, but I will use post-it notes for those!  This helps a lot for reviewing, too.


I only have one physical book going at a time.  I won’t start another one until I finish the first.  I will, however, have an audio book in my car and one on my mp3 player.


Amber: Where is your favorite place to read?


Jen Forbus: Anyplace I can open my book and read without distraction is wonderful.  I always have a book with me. 


In the summer I love to read out on my porch swing.  I’m also fond of curling up on my sofa with my books.   


Amber: Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?


Jen Forbus: Beverly Cleary was definitely one of my first favorites.  I loved Ramona and Ralph and Henry.  I guess I would still consider her among my favorites; definitely still a sentimental favorite.  I now read her books with my seven-year-old niece. 


Amber: Have you noticed your favorite books are more plot driven or character driven?


Jen Forbus: Definitely character driven.  No doubt about that.  Almost every review I do will highlight character strengths.  It’s rare for a book to have strong characters and then have the plot fall flat.  When there are great characters, they dictate a great plot.  Tim Hallinan wrote a blog post about his writing resolutions.  One of those resolutions said, “Follow my characters rather than trying to push them around like chess pieces. Remember that plot is what characters do, not a box to jam them into.”  Books that follow that mantra are the ones I enjoy the most.


Amber: Do you now or have you ever belonged to a book club?


Jen Forbus: Not exactly.  I have an account on Goodreads, and through Goodreads I met a woman who leads a mystery book group in California.  They have “remote members.”  We all get the list of books for each month and can send our comments about them in.  I don’t, however, get the joy of attending the meetings.  I’ve been on the lookout for such a group in my area, but haven’t had much luck finding one.  The local libraries have some book discussion groups, but they aren’t specialized – the books are a sampling of all genres.


Amber: How big is your TBR pile?


Jen Forbus: My TBR pile is absolutely absurd.  I actually recently posted about it and the process I use to determine what I’m going to read next.  I said that I had three large boxes, plus overflow, plus a list of books I don’t own personally.  Turned out, I underestimated what I have; I have FOUR large boxes, overflow, and a list of books I don’t own personally.  It’s well in excess of 200 books, probably closer to 300.  And with blogging, I receive so many great recommendations that it keeps growing every day.  I can’t read as fast as it grows.


Amber: Do you review every book you read?  If not, does a book need to meet certain criteria?


Jen Forbus: I try to review every book I read now.  I didn’t before I started blogging.  I looked back on some of my early entries in Goodreads and couldn’t believe the comments I put in.  I thought, “Really, this is all I wrote about this book?”  The only reason I wouldn’t review a book now is if I didn’t have time right after I read the book, and by the time I got to, I didn’t feel I remembered it detailed enough to review it.


Amber: What is the best feedback or comment you’ve received on a book review?


Jen Forbus: The best thing a reader can say to me (for my ego) is, “I’m going to go read this book.”  That is the greatest joy for me as a book blogger.  The reason I blog about books is to share my excitement about them.  So when others get as excited as me about a book, I’m over the moon. 


Constructively, I’ve had several readers and some authors tell me they enjoyed the excerpts I pulled out in my reviews. 


Whatever I do, I try to support my conclusions.  I won’t just say, “these are great characters” or “this is a strong plot.”  I illustrate why I thought they were great characters or outline what made the plot strong.


Amber: What do you enjoy most about book blogging?


Jen Forbus: I guess I answered this a little in #8.  I love books.  And I love discussing books with other people.  I taught high school English for several years and was discussing books in my job.  Of course the discussion participants were forced to be there.  Blogging about books fills that void that leaving the classroom created; plus, the folks that come to read WANT to be there.  I’ve met a number of great people through the blog who share my book interests.  I wouldn’t have had a chance to know them otherwise. 


Amber: In addition to writing book reviews you also conduct author interviews.  What do you find most rewarding about author interviews?


Jen Forbus: This summer was my foray into author interviews.  I wanted to do something different on my blog, so I reached out to some of my favorite writers.  I discovered that mystery/suspense/crime fiction writers are some of the nicest, most generous people around.  I sent out seven invitations, had six writers agree to interviews and picked up a seventh volunteer.


For me it’s a great experience to learn a bit more about the writers I admire.  I’ve even built a couple new friendships along the way.  But, in addition, I’ve received a lot of great feedback from readers through comment posts and e-mails.  My readers really enjoy the opportunity to know these writers better as well.  And of course, it’s most rewarding when a reader says he/she’s going to read one of the author’s books because of the interview.     


Amber: Which five books do you recommend to everyone you know?


Jen Forbus: I don’t really have five that I recommend to everyone.  I do feel every American should read The Audacity of Hope given that Barack Obama is running for president.  I think everyone should hear him through his own words, written prior to his pursuit of the White House.  But…


If I’m talking to a mystery/suspense reader, I definitely recommend Michael Koryta’s four novels.  I recommend Tim Hallinan’s The Fourth Watcher, Thomas Holland’s two novels (One Drop of Blood, K.I.A.), and anything by Alafair Burke, Lisa Unger, or Craig Johnson.


Outside of the mystery/suspense genre, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorites, as is most anything by Pat Conroy.  With my English lit background, I’m also a fan of a lot of classics:  Pride and Prejudice, Huck Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, Great Gatsby, any of Shakespeare’s plays, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…you get the idea. 

But, it’s all dependent on the reader I’m recommending to. 


  1. Great interview! It struck me as I was reading about how you listen to books in your car and on your MP3 player, that I have never listened to an audio book (mostly because I always have kids or my husband in the car and they would complain). I should try it though for when I’m driving by myself. I don’t know why I haven’t yet. 🙂

  2. Wonderful interview. Not that I am no longer a taxi service I am going to listen to more books on tape! Can’t read series books out of order either!


  3. That was a really nice interview. It was very informative and gave you a little insight into what Jen is like. She seems very nice. 🙂

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