#BookBeginnings A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

It’s time to start the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Anne Tyler’s novel follows the lives of a Baltimore family, Red and Abby Whitshank, and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

First Sentence:

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

Discussion:

Someone recently told me that a novel should reveal who, what, when and where early in the first scene. Anne Tyler introduces who and when in the first sentence.

What do you think? Would you read a book that didn’t introduce everything right away? Do you think different genres might have different rules, such as mysteries giving less away than historical fiction? Do you know any examples where the author waited past the first scene to reveal setting, time, or a main character? Did it work for you?

Does this first line entice you to keep reading?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Let’s take a look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel, from a writer’s perspective.

This post is likely to contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?

This is one of the oldest books on The Bestseller Code challenge list, published in 1998.

Labelled as a high-tech love story, The Klone and I is a mix of humor and romance.

 

Characters

Compared to our previous book by John Sandford, this book has a paucity of characters. The main character is Stephanie. She lives with her two kids, Charlotte and Sam. Her ex-husband Roger and his new wife Helena (Stephanie calls her Miss Bimbo at first), pop into the story when they take the kids. Otherwise, Stephanie spends time with her boyfriend Peter Baker or his bionic clone Paul.

Although Paul’s name is intentionally similar to Peter’s because he is Peter’s clone, the similarity between the two names was confusing at times.

Dialogue

Because the author writes the story in the first person point of view, much of the dialogue is internal. For the first 100 pages or so, the regular dialogue is well-written and witty. Take this example where the dialogue goes back and forth like a tennis ball at a tennis match while the characters discuss playing tennis. Brilliant.

…”we’re playing tennis with him tomorrow.”

“What?” Charlotte shrieked at me as I tucked Sam and the dog in, and she followed me into my bedroom, where I’d almost forgotten she was still sleeping with me. “I hate tennis.”

“You do not. You played all day yesterday.” My point. But only for an instant. She was quicker.

“That was different. That was with kids. Mom, he’s so ancient, he’ll probably have a heart attack and die on the court.” She sounded hopeful.

After 100 pages, the writer’s tone changes with the introduction of the clone.

“I have a million things to do today, and I haven’t finished the paper,” I said sternly, as through that would dissuade him. Ever since Roger left, I had promised myself I would wear makeup every day and keep abreast of the news.

“It’s all the same crap that happens every day, every week,” he assured me unmoved. “People killing each other, people dying, guys making home runs and touchdowns, stock prices going up and down like yo-yos. So what? Who cares?”

By the way, Stephanie’s efforts to improve herself after her husband leaves are mentioned numerous times throughout.

 

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

 

Setting

Most of the book is set in an apartment in New York, with one spontaneous trip to Paris, and one summer vacation at East Hampton. Of those, only Paris sparkles, perhaps because Danielle Steel actually lives there for part of the year.

Discussion/Review

Before this challenge I had never read a Danielle Steel novel, but there’s always a pile of them at the friends of the library used book sales so I assumed she’s popular. On the other hand, the number of 1 and 2 star reviews for this title on GoodReads suggested not many people liked this one. I didn’t know what to think.

The first 100 pages of the novel were enjoyable to me. I read through them quickly, and laughed out loud a few times. It felt like a close BFF sharing the pain of the break up of her marriage and the pitfalls of dating while laughing in the face of adversity. Then the main character, Stephanie, meets a respectable man named Peter Baker in romantic Paris and everything falls into place. It’s a sweet, relatable story so far, but my writer’s mind is waiting for the mid-point reversal (the place where the writer surprises the reader with a twist to the story).

Kaboom! The reversal drops in the title character, a clone named Paul Klone who wears a “one piece leopard spandex jumpsuit” and does flips in bed. The farce starts when Stephanie doesn’t realize that Paul isn’t Peter. From there, the believability flounders to the point where the reader begins to laugh at the author instead of with her. What happened?

Looking into the background of the book, I discovered Danielle Steel’s son Nick Traina died September 20, 1997, the year before The Klone and I came out in 1998.  It’s probably not a coincidence this book isn’t her best.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

The Klone And I, by Danielle Steel, is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This is touted as a high-tech love story.

This post does contain spoilers.


(*Amazon Affiliate link)
 

Years and years ago I read several of Danielle Steel’s novels.  I remember enjoying her themes of women struggling to combine career and family and love, trying to have it all.  The women seemed strong and independent, and at the end of the day, the importance of family bonds was always the most important thing.  At least that’s how I remember her novels.  After reading The Klone and I, I have to wonder just how reliable my memory is.

Stephanie, the main character in The Klone and I was a disappointment in many ways. She is indecisive, inattentive, self-centered, and naïve.  I suppose being naïve is not a bad thing, but reading about someone that naïve after the life experiences she had gone through – divorce, raising children – made her unbelievable.  Maybe it was the trust fund that enabled her to go through life without seeming to really commit to life.

And speaking of unbelievable, shall we discuss Paul, the clone?  I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written in 1998 when computers were just beginning to become an integral part of our lives, but still seemed quite magical.  Anything was possible if a computer was involved, including life-like clones.  Paul, though, is so over-the-top that I simply could not buy the whole premise.

I understand why this book made The Bestseller Code’s top 100 list, because it is 100% about relationships, mostly Stephanie and her relationships with her ex-husband, with Peter, and with Paul. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Stephanie.  I didn’t like the dismissive attitude she often had about her children.  I didn’t like how easily she was swayed by the fun and free-wheeling Paul while knowing he wasn’t real and that he was using Peter’s money to buy all the gifts for her.  I found Stephanie to be shallow and self-absorbed. Overall, The Klone and I was a disappointment.

What did you think of The Klone and I?  Did you find Paul believable as a clone?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BookBeginnings MatchUp Edited by Lee Child

This week we have MatchUp, the new collection of short stories edited by Lee Child for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

MatchUp*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

About MatchUp:

This book is a collection of short stories written by twenty-two members of the International Thriller Writers organization. Each short story pairs famous authors, one female and one male, and features the main characters from their respective thrillers.

Sandra Brown and C. J. Box
Val McDermid and Peter James
Kathy Reichs and Lee Child
Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry
Gayle Lynds and David Morrell
Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta
Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross
Lisa Jackson and John Sandford
Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice
Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille
J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader

A short blurb profiling the authors, explaining their process, etc. precedes each short story.

First Sentence:

When Joe Pickett set out that morning, he hadn’t anticipated coming face-to-face with a killing machine.

This sentence is from the first short story, Honor & …

Discussion:

Last weekend a friend and I went to a pre-release book signing sponsored by The Poisoned Pen bookstore. Laurie King (author of the series  which features Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) interviewed Diana Gabaldon. They talked about writing short stories. Some of the highlights:

Diana Gabaldon said she won’t be doing a signing of Seven Stones To Stand or Fall when it releases because she’s expecting her first grandchild around then. That’s why she was signing MatchUp now.

Although Seven Stones is supposed to be short stories, it turns out a short story (usually 18,000 words maximum) for Diana is 75,000 words, which is a full novel by most standards. There were a lot of jokes about this.

Her next book is titled Go Tell The Bees I am Gone. It’s in the works, but not completed yet.

She writes from midnight to 4:00 a.m. That is amazing, but I totally get it. In the early morning the world is quiet and there aren’t any interruptions. Well, except when I try to write in the early morning my cats go ballistic. They say, “Alright! Someone is up when we like to play!” Diana has a dog, but she says he stays quiet, too. Lucky her.

She says she includes bathroom breaks for readers in her stories. Too fun.

I could go on and on.

Have you read Diana Gabaldon’s books? Do you think you’ll read MatchUp?

 

#BestsellerCode100: Number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?  This is one of the oldest books on the challenge list, published in 1998.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Do you think it deserves to be on the list of the 100 best? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Easy Prey by John Sandford

Easy Prey by John Sandford is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This book is #11 in a series of twenty-seven (so far) novels starring Lucas Davenport, a police officer and war games designer.  Interestingly, all twenty-seven books include the word “Prey” in the title.  Does that tell you anything about the series?  In Easy Prey, the body count mounts quickly.  

This post does not contain spoilers.

Easy Prey* by John Sandford

This review is written about the first half of the book, up to Chapter 19.

Police Procedural

Easy Prey is a police procedural novel, which means that the murder mystery is solved by those trained to solve murders, the police, and the story is heavy on the police process.  This is a new type of mystery for me to read and, so far, I like it.  As Roberta mentioned in her Writer’s Review, this book has a lot of characters, but I’ve been able to follow along and keep them all straight without too much difficulty.  I was struck by the amount of detail Sandford gives for each character. For example, in Chapter 6 we are introduced to Lapstrake, a police officer from the Intelligence division.

Lapstrake was a bland, twenty-something guy with a home haircut who wore blue Sears work pants and a blue shirt that said “Cairn’s Glass” on the back.

A blue shirt wasn’t descriptive enough.  Sandford added “Cairn’s Glass” to the back of it.  I had to wonder why Cairn’s Glass, if that would be significant to the story later on, but it did succeed in making Lapstrake’s character more memorable.

Appreciation of Women

Lucas Davenport is not your typical police officer.  For one thing, he’s wealthy; he invented board games to supplement his police income, which turned into computer games and led to his own company selling simulations to law enforcement.  For another, Davenport has an innate appreciation of women, especially beautiful women.  He notices and responds to small things about women that seem atypical of a middle-aged male, let alone a street-hardened cop.  For example, in Chapter 2 he interacts with the wife of a friend:

She and Lucas had always liked each other, and if things had been different, if the Clays hadn’t been quite so happy with each other…She smelled good, like some kind of faintly perfumed soap.

Later, when Davenport is home, he continues to think of her:

Clean, mellow, starting to fade, the memory of Verna Clay’s scent still on his mind, he dropped into bed. He was asleep in five minutes, a small easy smile on his face.

Each woman Davenport interacts with affects him in some physical way, and he interacts with several in this book, in multiple ways.  I feel I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, meeting Davenport midway through the “Prey” series; throughout the book there are mentions of past relationships that I am certain were main themes in previous novels.  He is a character that I want to see from the very beginning in order to watch his growth and learn how far he’s come.

Bodies Galore

I’m only halfway through the book, but the body count is up to six and potentially there are at least two different killers, maybe more.  It’s a lot to keep track of, and even more to consider for motives and means, but I’m hooked.  I’m eager to finish this review so I can get back to reading!  And then I’ll have to track down the first book in the “Prey” series, Rules of Prey.

Do you like police procedural mysteries?  What did you think of Easy Prey?

Related posts (links will be added as posts go live):

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel (1998) – Discussion begins June 12, 2017.
Touted as a high-tech love story.

#BookBeginnings Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I

Today we’re looking forward to starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-danielle-steel

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This is one of the oldest books on the challenge list, published in 1998.

Summary:  When her husband of thirteen years leaves,  Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match?

First Sentence:

My first, and thus far only, marriage ended exactly two days before Thanksgiving.

Discussion:

Although she is wildly popular, I have never read anything written by Danielle Steel before.

Even though it is a sad time for Stephanie, the way the first scene is written made me nod my head and at times chuckle. I liked the first person voice. It made me feel like I was talking to a close girlfriend.

Without giving too much away, at about 100 pages things change abruptly.  Although authors are supposed to defy readers’ expectations half way through the book, this was way too much. I’ve read that the first sentence/scene/chapter should set the tone for the book, like the author’s promise to the reader:  “If you like this, you’ll like the rest of the book because it will be the same.” In this case, the promise was broken.

Do you think the first chapter should set the tone for the book? Have you ever read a book that changed tone so much you no longer enjoyed it?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Easy Prey by John Sandford

Let’s examine at next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Easy Prey by John Sandford, from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains a few spoilers.

Easy Prey* by John Sandford


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This is the 11th mystery in the “Prey” series, featuring police detective Lucas Davenport.

Summary:  When a supermodel is killed during a party, there’s a media frenzy surrounding the case. Things get even worse when it is revealed another person was also killed and one of Davenport’s own men is a suspect.

Characters

In Easy Prey, the main character of the series, Lucas Davenport, is a deputy police chief. Although he works for the city of Minneapolis, he can afford to drive a Porsche because he made a great deal of money designing some early computer simulation games, implying he’s working in law enforcement because he really enjoys it.

Author John Sandford creates many, many characters in this novel, including multiple victims, friends and relatives associated with the victims, suspects, police, sheriffs, assistant medical examiners, medical examiners, computer hacks who assist the police, etc. etc. The sheer number of characters is fascinating, especially the duplication. There isn’t one love interest, but three strong candidates and Lucas notices a couple of other women. There isn’t one initial victim, but two, and many more pile up. Lucas regularly reports to not one boss, but both the Chief of Police and the Mayor, who seem to travel in pairs. The good news is each of the characters is given a recognizable name and enough individual details to help keep them separate in the reader’s mind.

In a recent interview (video in this post), Sandford revealed that in his later books he felt Davenport had started to “direct traffic” rather than investigate, meaning his law enforcement team had become large and cumbersome. To overcome that problem in the most recent novel Davenport goes to work for the U.S. Marshals Service, becoming a lone investigator with a minimal number of assistants.

Setting of Easy Prey

As mentioned, the book is set in Minnesota, primarily in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Throughout the book the characters visit local sites, such as the Mall of America.

Sandford says when Davenport works for the city he can develop a level of intimacy with his setting. He knows the locations where crimes are likely to occur and he also knows who to talk to in order to get the inside scoop. In later books, he moves to a statewide agency, where his knowledge is still useful, but more diluted. As a U.S. Marshal (in the latest book) the crimes he investigates might be anywhere in the U.S. and, as Sandford notes, it is like he’s been “thrown into the ocean.” From the writer’s perspective it shows how setting can constrain or control a character.

 

Minneapolis-Easy-Prey-Setting

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

Plot

Not your standard mystery novel, Easy Prey has a convoluted plot with multiple killers who have a range of motives. Readers who like to solve the mystery alongside the detective will be disappointed when one of the killers comes out of left field.

Themes/Topics

Although Sandford is the first to admit that he writes entertaining genre fiction, he does throw in some deeper material. For example, his main character Davenport has a running discussion with an ex-college girlfriend Catrin about her emerging midlife crisis. She put her a career aside in the past to raise her children. Now she feels like she missed something and she regrets having been in the “background of someone else’s movie” when she could have starred in her own. Whether or not you agree with Davenport’s response (either choice will cause regrets), it is not the type of material a reader expects in a detective novel.

Comments

Easy Prey is an entertaining novel. It is also relatively easy to read, especially compared to some others in our challenge, but that isn’t to say the novel is lightweight. Based on elements such as the complexity of the plot and sheer number of characters, it has many things to teach an aspiring writer.

Have you read Easy Prey by John Sandford? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

______________________________

Newest book in the series:

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Published April 25, 2017 – Number 27 in the “Prey” series

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel (1998) – Discussion begins June 12, 2017.
Touted as a high-tech love story.

#BookBeginnings Easy Prey by John Sandford

Today we’re featuring the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, Easy Prey by John Sandford for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

Easy Prey* by John Sandford


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   A glamorous supermodel is killed at a party and police detective Lucas Davenport gets the call. Not only does he have to deal with a media frenzy over his case, but things go from bad to worse when another body shows up and one of his men becomes the main suspect.

This is the 11th novel in the “Prey” mystery series.

First Sentence:

When the first man woke up that morning, he wasn’t thinking about killing anyone.

Discussion:

That sets the tone for a mystery, doesn’t it? The man isn’t identified, but it sounds like he may be a killer before the day is out. Also, how many more men that might kill someone are there, if he’s only the first?

So far this book could be called “Easy Read” instead of Easy Prey. It goes down like candy, in stark contrast to our previous Bestseller Code challenge book, World War Z. Thank you, John Sandford.

What do you think? Have you read any of John Sandford’s books?

The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott

J. Todd Scott‘s debut novel, The Far Empty, starts out with a bang:

“My father has killed three men.”

With tough, gritty language the narrator describes what happened to the three men his father killed, interlaced with evidence that his father’s three wives all died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances as well. Is the narrator’s father a hardened criminal? No, he’s the local sheriff.

J. Todd Scott’s The Far Empty*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Characters:

The story is told from the points of view of several characters. In the prologue, the first person narrator turns out to be seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross, whose mature voice belies his age. Caleb has seen way too much in his young life.

After the prologue, each chapter is named for the character who narrates it (from the third person point of view.) For example, “Chris” is Deputy Chris Cherry, who responds to the call when a rancher discovers a body on his land. At first Chris thinks it might be an immigrant who died of exposure — a common occurrence  in that area — until he notices that someone tied the arms with zip-ties. Realizing the implications of what he sees, he investigates the murder and unknowingly triggers a violent chain of events.

Setting:

The setting is the fictional town of Murfee, Texas. It is located in the wide open spaces near Big Bend National Park, a harsh area along the border of Texas and Mexico. People really do die there and law enforcement officers aren’t always whom they seem.

Big-Bend-J. Todd Scott

Public domain photo via Visual hunt

The Author

As mentioned in a recent  book beginnings post, J. Todd Scott visited our writing group last Friday. He told us about his journey to becoming a published author.

Highlights:

Like many of us, he got his start with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Because J. Todd Scott has a job as a DEA agent, he gets up two hours early every weekday morning to write, trying for 600 words per day.  It is working because he has two more novels due out over the next two years.

He mentioned that although the stories of the new novels follow characters from The Far Empty, the next two will be branded as mysteries rather than western crime because they are set in other locations.

A bit of a maverick by modern writing standards, Todd revealed he didn’t share his work with critique groups or beta readers. His agent was the first person to read his first novel. Perhaps that’s why his voice is so strong and clear, because it is not sanded down by the comments of others.

Review

When some members of my writing group said how much they enjoyed The Far Empty, I was excited to get my hands on it.

The author develops powerful and interesting characters. Although it’s a cliché, you will love some of the characters and others you will love to hate. I’ll admit that at first the multiple character narration was a bit disorienting. Who is this person and how do they relate to the others? I gave it a chance, however, and things came into focus.

J. Todd Scott has a unique voice, writing with a combination of English major prose and law enforcement realism. These two ingredients make The Far Empty a novel that will stick with you.

Have you read The Far Empty? What did you think of it?

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