Friday Five Challenge: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Welcome to my Friday Five Challenge – a new challenge courtesy of Rosie Amber’s blog.


Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions from small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier,

2) Randomly choose a category,

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book,

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

I decided to look at Women’s Fiction on the Amazon Kindle store because I’m not really sure what that actually means! I then selected ‘historical’.

‘The Winter People’ by Jennifer McMahon caught my eye.

winter people

The title is great and I like unfussy covers – this one is beautifully done.

Then I saw the price – £7.36! For a Kindle edition! It had better be really good.

Book description:

The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

Number of pages – 336.

Reviews – 6: 1 five star, 4 four star, 1 three star, but it’s only been out since February. The reviews are generally positive but don’t exactly recommend it whole-heartedly.

Would I buy or pass?  (surprisingly) Buy


I love the cover of this book and I love the book description (although I don’t set much store by ‘The New York Times bestselling author’ bit as almost everyone seems to be that these days). The story sounds intriguing, spooky and intelligent. The reviews are ok, not great but not terrible. However, reviews are so subjective and, unless all the reviewers are pointing out the same faults, then I prefer to go by my gut feeling. After all, reviews aren’t exactly reliable – I’ve lost count of the amount of terrible books I’ve read with glowing five star reviews. The price is off-putting – it seems way too high for a kindle edition, and the paperback is £11.99. I know that writers should be recompensed fairly and maybe we’ve all got too used to expecting to pay peanuts, but I do think this is far too much. Having said that, I probably spend twice that amount on coffee every week and books are far more important, so I am going to buy this one. But for that money, it had better be really good! Watch this space for my review.

There’ll be another Friday Five Challenge next week – please feel free to join in! Pop along to Rosie’s blog to see her Friday Five Challenge.


  1. Excellent, with millions of books and loads of categories, it is important writers get things right. I agree the book cover here fits the book title well, the book description tells you enough that if a mystery sparks your interest you’ll probably give it a chance. The price is really hard, do you make it competitive? Or a reflection of your hard work? It may also be influenced by how many middle men need paying in that price.
    The New York Best Selling list can be just a label which may be both positive and negative, with no time parameters and when the buyer is not American, how much influence does that label really have? How many people out there will buy a book because it’s on that list and for no other reason?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rosie. The price is a really thorny issue, I think. It did take me by surprise because I’m so used to seeing Kindle books for £0.99-£2.99. The proof will be in the reading!


  2. I love this challenge! What fun! I really liked your selection, and because I review ghost novels, I downloaded The Winter People. I never would have noticed this book otherwise. I guess it has only a few reviews on UK Amazon. On US Amazon, it has almost 600 reviews.

    I tried your challenge and narrowed my choice to three books. One caught my eye because of a beautiful tea cup, but it turned out to be faith-based, which I don’t read. Another book caught my eye, but I discarded it because the author’s description included the phrase “reek havoc.” I figure if an author doesn’t take the trouble to write a blurb correctly, the book will probably be worse. I settled on Girl on a Train ( I’m a train enthusiast (a great place to write), so I was drawn in. The blurb promises some psychological intrigue as well as a mystery. I’m a little concerned about how dark it might be, though, as some critics liked it to Gone Girl, which I found depressing. So, we’ll see…

    I will probably buy it or pick it up from the library.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deb. It’s a really good idea of Rosie’s isn’t it? And really valuable for writers I think because it shows how quickly minds are made up and chances to get readers can be missed. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of ‘The Winter People’.


    2. Hi Deb, thank you so much for joining in, I’m thrilled you tried it out too, if you blog and want to join in on a Friday please do, I have a template for the post you can use, if you want a copy please contact me via my blog and I’ll e-mail you a copy.

      Rosie Amber – Book reviewer. Campaigning to link more readers to writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a cool challenge. I love analyzing book covers. They’ve got to be professional and appealing for the reader to take seriously (and of course should be a reflection of the book’s contents). That’s a bummer about the high price for this one, it does seem like a lot if I have my conversions correct.

    The book is solid and spooky (though I wish it was even more scary). I know you’ve already read the reviews, but here’s mine if you’re interested: I’d be curious about yours!

    Also, that’s funny about “Women’s Fiction.” What a weird/unhelpful category. Because the book is by a woman? Has female characters? Yawn. But I guess some people find books this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Levi – it’s a fun challenge and I’ve found some great books through it. Do feel free to join in next Friday, details are on Rosie’s blog. And as for the women’s fiction thing – I still don’t know what that means!

      Liked by 1 person

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