When book clubs are asked to "beta" read an author's novel, particularly their debut novel, it is important to take the task seriously. This is exactly what happened when Mark Griffis asked U.S. G.I.R.L.S. to critique his book, Coastal Treasure prior to publication.
It was a cold, blustery day, but that did not hinder our participation nor our enthusiasm. JayBee began with a prayer and we "got" right down to business. We all expressed similar critiques regarding the slow pace at the beginning of the book and the influx of information, which some deemed unnecessary. We also discussed at length the excessive or over usage of 3 and 4 syllable words in lieu of common synonyms that we use daily.
Although Mark's book is a work of fiction, JayBee immediately pointed out her frustration
with utilizing an actual location, but merging unrealistic fictional details. While this would only be obvious to natives of Fernandina Beach, it was still a concern. Why not use a fictional city or town for the setting of the book? Mark's response was that he loves Fernandina Beach and wanted to exercise his "creative license" to alter details that he deemed necessary for his story. Mark suggested adding an acknowledgment prior to chapter one which articulates his position on fact merging with fiction, and this sounded like a plausible solution.
The usage of symbols for profanity (OMG)!!! This made everyone want to (for a lack of better terminology) scream! Either curse or don't, but please do not force an audience to absorb a series of &%$#@ to "assume" intended words (sorry Mark, I had to get it out).
Celeste, as well as everyone, immediately took issue with character, Amos George's dialect (well, not so much the dialect, but the inconsistencies of the dialect).
We all agreed that once Amos George's character was introduced in chapter 17, the story began to reveal itself, like a pound cake rising in the oven! Amos' likable personality and wit captured our hearts, and held our interest. We all wanted to hear more of Amos' backstory and felt that some edits could be made in chapters 1-16 to facilitate this.
We struggled with the target market for Coastal Treasure, and agreed that marketing it correctly will be crucial for its success.
The overall concept and plot of the story were very good and the characters were believable and charming. Everyone seemed to enjoy the scenes with Amos George, Jake and Rory the best. There were topics surrounding grief resolution, bullying, puppy love, racial strife, corruption, and many others that are relevant in today's society.
Coastal Treasure is a feel good, coming of age story with a few surprises that won these readers over, and left us wanting more. With some modifications and the proper editing, this book could be on the shelves or electronic devices of millions of readers.
Before adjourning, we presented Mark with a signature U.S. G.I.R.L.S. coffee cup and a package of Wolfgang Puck gourmet coffee. This gift was intended to be symbolic of the scene in the book where Jake found his father's coffee cup after he died. Mark related a personal story to us regarding the death of his father in 2015 and how a similar incident actually happened to him personally.
After Mark left, we voted on our favorite Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) completed by members; and the winners are:
Tied for 1st place with three votes each: Bonnie and Celeste
2nd Place with two votes: Jackie
Honorable Mention with one vote: Sharron
JayBee presented Celeste, Bonnie and Jackie with Brighton Bracelets from the "Art and Soul" Collection. JayBee also mentioned guests, Rachel, Lisa, Shali, Vickye, Celestial and Raven (Kathryn), who all submitted random acts of kindness, were mailed Starbucks gift cards to enjoy their favorite drink, sandwich, pastry or snack!!
After the presentation, JayBee mentioned that she too had a coastal treasure that she enjoys and presented all the ladies with a salt stone from the Salt Gift Shop located in the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia. These stones are wonderful for the bath and have holistic properties that can assist with relaxation and detoxification. If used properly, the ladies should be able to use their salt stones anywhere from 5 to 7 times!
We are looking forward to hearing from Mark regarding any edits or revisions and cannot wait to write our Amazon reviews for Coastal Treasure.