Author: Roberta (page 1 of 21)

#BookBeginnings The Dry by Jane Harper

I’m supposed to be reading our next challenge book, but instead I’m reading The Dry by Jane Harper 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


The Dry
by Jane Harper

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   Aaron Falk returns to his former home town for the funeral of his best friend from childhood. He intends to drive back to Melbourne and his job as a Federal Agent immediately afterwards, largely because the bad feelings that caused his family to leave are still lurking under the surface.  His plans change, however, as he learns more about his friend’s death and discovers it may have been murder. What really happened and is it all linked to the secrets of the past?

This is Jane Harper’s debut novel. The paperback just came out last month.

First Sentence of the Prologue:

It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.

Discussion:

I’ve never seen a prologue written from the point of view of blowflies before.

What I’ve read so far is well written and quite gripping. Although the main character is on leave and is a federal agent who investigates financial crimes rather than murder, the novel still falls in the police procedural category, which I enjoy.

It is set in Australia in an area that is experiencing a severe drought. The drought itself adds another layer of tension to the story.

Have you read The Dry? Do you think you’d like to read it?

#BestsellerCode100: Number 66. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon watches from heaven as events unfold after her rape and murder.

Published in 2002, this is one of the older books on our challenge list. It is Alice Sebolt’s debut novel, although she had already published a memoir, Lucky. It won a Bram Stoker award and was made into a movie.

 

 

Have you read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold? 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:

__________________

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. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 65.  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) – Discussion begins March 5, 2018
Historical fiction

The Magic of Abracadabra by David Kranes

Time to take a look at a new mystery, Abracadabra by David Kranes, published by University of Nevada Press (November 1, 2017).

Elko Wells can find things that no one else can. His amazing ability surfaced after a severe head injury he received as a professional football player. When apparently normal, decent guy Mark Goodson fails to reappear on stage while serving as a volunteer during a magic act, Goodson’s wife hires Wells to track him down. Wading through the chaos that is Las Vegas at its liveliest, with the help of celebrity look-alikes and cocktail waitress sleuths, Wells follows the missing man’s trail.

Described as written in the noir tradition, this novel blasts along at a frenetic pace. David Kranes’s dialogue is whip fast and authentic. For example, you can sense the sparks in this exchange between Mark Goodson and his wife Lena (who wants to go to the Rhino):

“Can we still go to Picasso?”

“I thought we could go to…what was it called? The Rhino.”

“I want to go to Picasso.”

“Even though he cuts people up?”

“That makes one of us an accomplice.”

In case you didn’t know, the Rhino refers to an actual strip club or “gentlemen’s club.” Picasso is a Las Vegas restaurant.

 

Public domain photograph by Jean Beaufort

Setting

I love a book with a strong setting, and Abracadabra has setting in spades (sorry, I couldn’t resist). David Kranes lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where he is a professor emeritus at the University of Utah. It would appear, however, that he has spent a great deal of time in Las Vegas. He knows the different casinos, the games, the restaurants, and the people with the precision of an insider who has spent hours observing in real life.

For example, when the protagonist, Elko Wells, isn’t finding people he runs a celebrity look-alike service. When he spots someone who resembles Martin Sheen,  Elko follows him to see if the man has potential as an employee. Kranes’s description of the scene could only come from someone who knows his way around Las Vegas casinos:

Martin Sheen sits down and Elko does the same thing, a stool away. The possible Sheen orders a Dewar’s and water, slips in his club card, glides a hundred into a multigame validator and starts playing Double Double Bonus.

Apparently he is talking about some kind of slot machines.

The Bottom Line

Abracadabra would be a good choice for readers who love Las Vegas. It is also for those who want a fast-paced mystery with a noir spin.

See (and listen to) a review of Abracadabra by Mary Sojourner at KNAU

Disclosure: This book was provided for review purposes by the publisher. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. If you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a small commission at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

#BookBeginnings The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Today we’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted at 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 at the link above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon watches from heaven as events unfold after her rape and murder.

First Sentence:

My name was Salmon, like the fish: first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

Discussion:

What a beginning. That first line reveals so much character in just a few words.

Published in 2002, this is one of the older books on our challenge list. It is Alice Sebolt’s debut novel, although she had already published a memoir, Lucky. In the memoir, she revealed she had been raped as a college freshman, which explains the subject matter.

With the violent events that led to Susie’s death, it would seem like this would be in the thriller/suspense/mystery genres, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It won a Bram Stoker award, which honors horror novels. The story, however, is also about family and relationships. It seems like this novel defies categorization.

There is a 2009 movie based on Lovely Bones. I wonder how well it follows the book. The movie trailer is here.

What do you think? Have you read this novel?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of Two Novels by Dean Koontz

To do something a bit different, I decided to compare and contrast two thrillers by Dean Koontz from a writer’s perspective.  The Darkest Evening of the Year, published in 2007, is the most recent novel we’ve been reading for the Bestseller Code Challenge. The Whispering Room:  A Jane Hawk Novel is Koontz’s newest novel, published in 2O17.

This post contains spoilers.

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Amy Redwing has devoted her life to rescuing golden retrievers. When she puts herself in danger to save Nickie, she develops a special bond with the dog. But now someone is after Amy. Who is going to rescue whom?

The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Jane Hawk is an FBI agent who has uncovered evidence of an evil organization which is brainwashing innocent people and forcing them to carry out crimes. Things go wrong when she tries to expose their plot and she becomes a fugitive from the law.

Genre:

Although both of the novels are squarely in the thriller genre, The Darkest Evening could be considered to be a psychological thriller with paranormal elements, whereas The Whispering Room is a conspiracy thriller set in the near future, which causes it to cross into science fiction.

At the time Dean Koontz began writing, agents advised writers to stick to the rules of a certain genre, because booksellers organized novels by genre on the bookshelves. If the bookseller didn’t know where to put a book, it was less likely to sell well.

Koontz was willing to break those rules from the start. Now it is much more common to see novels that are a mix of genres, and I think that is because few books are actually organized on bookshelves any more. The online bookstores have changed how we buy books and also how we write them.

 

Characters:

Both novels feature a strong female protagonists. They both were married, but are no longer with their husbands. They’ve also had children. Amy’s child was killed, and Jane’s child is staying with friends to keep him out of harm’s way. Both protagonists have a male partner who assists them.

The novels have multiple antagonists, with different reasons for endangering the protagonists.  Koontz’s bad buys are really nasty. They will make you squirm in your seat and possibly give you nightmares.

Setting:

The Darkest Evening is set in California in the area around Newport Beach and Lake Elsinore. In The Whispering Room, Jane Hawk travels around the country. The setting isn’t particularly well developed in either novel. Instead there’s a general feeling that evil is lurking around every corner.

Discussion:

Shared themes:

Fire is a strong theme in both books. In The Darkest Evening one of the antagonists, Moongirl, regularly sets fires.  There is a gruesome scene in Chapter 12, where she and another antagonist, Harrow, burn down a house with innocent people inside. They ignite the fire using gasoline.

The Whispering Room starts with Cora Gundersun dreaming that she is walking through fire without burning. In Chapter 17, she loads her SUV with 15 cans of gasoline. After setting the gas on fire, she drives into the front of a hotel restaurant, where her vehicle explodes. It turns out she was an innocent person who had been brainwashed into committing a horrific crime.

Other similarities are more subtle. For example, in The Whispering Room, as Cora drives toward the hotel she sees a golden retriever on a leash. Of course, golden retrievers figure prominently in The Darkest Evening and are, in fact, Koontz’s favorite breed of dog.  I suspect that the dog is Koontz’s way of giving a little present to his loyal fans.

He also has a character named Luther in both books.

Little Mysteries:

Dean Koontz is a master at dropping in little mysteries to entice the reader to keep reading. For example, in an early scene Brian receives a threatening email that mentions “Piggie.” The reader wonders who sent it and who Piggie is. Clues are sprinkled until it is finally revealed what is going on. He is brilliant at building these kind of questions in the reader’s mind, making it impossible to put the book down once you’ve started.

I’ve been aware that Dean Koontz was a bestselling author for years, but hadn’t read any of his books until recently. Now I can understand why he has such a loyal following and I hope to read more of his books in the future.

Have you read The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz? 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. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 66. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) – Discussion begins February 19, 2018
Mix of genres

#BestsellerCode100: Number 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Amy Redwing has devoted her life to rescuing golden retrievers. When she puts herself in danger to save Nickie, she develops a special bond with the dog. But now someone is after Amy. Who is going to rescue whom?

Have you read The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz? 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 Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

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. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 66. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) – Discussion begins February 19, 2018
Mix of genres

#BookBeginnings The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Today we’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeThe Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz 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-darkest-evening

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   Amy Redwing has devoted her life to rescuing golden retrievers. When she puts herself in danger to save Nickie, she develops a special bond with the dog. But now someone is after Amy. Who is going to rescue whom?

 

First Sentence of Chapter One:

Behind the wheel of the Ford Expedition, Amy Redwing drove as if she were immortal and therefore safe at any speed,

Discussion:

Dean Koontz is throwing us right into the action with this first sentence.

I was curious about the photograph on the book jacket of Dean Koontz and a golden retriever, so I went to his website. It turns out that he had a golden named Trixie. She died in 2007, the year this book came out. He says he couldn’t write for a month after he lost her.

Knowing this will probably change how I look at this book. Obviously this is going to be a very personal story, even though it is fiction.

Are you a Dean Koontz fan? Have you read this one?

 

Public domain photograph by Karen Arnold

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Discussion of Cross Roads and Beginning a Novel

Let’s briefly discuss how to create a good beginning for your novel using Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Tony Spencer does whatever it takes to be a success. When he falls into a coma, he has an experience that allows him to re-evaluate his past behavior. Will he act on his revelations?

Discussion

For the first time in the Bestseller Code 100 challenge, I’m afraid this novel was a DNF — did not finish — for me. For my review I’m going to concentrate on a message I got from a recent SCBWI workshop about how to begin your novel.

Many writing courses suggest capturing a reader’s attention with a big hook in the beginning.  There are some great examples of novels that are able to do this, like Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Talk about grabbing your attention!

At the workshop, Abigail Samoun offered slightly different advice. She said to treat the introduction of your book like you are welcoming the reader into the door of your house. She used a beautiful example of how J. R. R. Tolkien started The Hobbit:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

She said this first sentence said to the reader, “Come on in, sit down and I’ll tell you a story.”

Other books might use introductions that tease, “Hey, check this out” or “Wait to you see this.” Anything to quickly usher them (the reader/guest) inside.

Once readers have entered, she suggested introducing “yourself” (your main character) right away and giving them a hint of what to expect. Particularly, you want to make them comfortable and eager to stay. I won’t go into all the details, but I really liked the analogy and thought it was something I’d consider for any story opening I write.

The Dilemma

The author had a dilemma in the first part of Cross Roads. He wanted to establish Tony as someone who was an awful person and needed redemption. By making Tony so extremely unlikable, however, the author essentially slammed the door in the reader’s face. Once I learned Tony had re-married his wife just so he could divorce her, I didn’t want to read any further. This was not a character I wanted to spend time with for one more minute, no matter what happened later.

If the author had started a bit earlier in Tony’s life, it would have been better. For example, if he had started the novel at the time when Tony’s parents died, the reader would feel sympathy for him and want to know what happened to Tony. Or, he could have used the age old trick of having Tony be nice to a dog or a child. Anything to allow the reader to root for him a little bit and want to keep reading.

Abigail Samoun gave some good advice. Be a good host to your reader and they will stay with you.

Have you ever read a book that shut you out or made you leave after only a few pages? What books have you not finished?

 

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. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz (2007) – Discussion begins February 5, 2018 — Psychological thriller

Winter 2018 #Bloggiesta: Tune Up Your Blog

Do you have a blog, particularly a book blog?

Time to spruce it up, catch up on those posts you’ve been meaning to write, and get re-energized about blogging by participating in the winter 2018 mini-Bloggiesta from February 3-4, 2018. Sign-ups are here.

 

blog party

What is Bloggiesta?

Bloggiesta is an online party where you find tips to get your blog organized, take challenges to learn new things, and — best of all — meet some awesome book bloggers!

My 2018 To Do List

  • Update the Bestseller Code 100 Reading Challenge Book List into June.
  • Check the sidebars on all my blogs for outdated text and widgets.
    • I took off the blogrolls on my oldest blogs. Does anyone still do those? They become outdated so quickly.
  • Make a few upgrades to my Roberta Gibson Writes website.
  • Cross-post some reviews to GoodReads, etc.
  • Visit and comment on other Bloggiesta participants’ blogs.
  •  Check out the past challenges for more ideas.
  • Revise this list as I think of more things.
  • Should back up all my blogs ASAP.

Time to get busy.

 

Summary:  I accomplished more than I thought I would, even though life got in my way yesterday. Three projects that seemed to be nearly completed took sideways turns on me and will now require significantly more work. Guess it was better to find the issues before they are submitted rather than afterwards, but it was still a bit disheartening.

Hope you all have had a fun and productive Bloggiesta.

 

tuning-up-your-blog

#BookBeginnings The City of Brass

Today we’re reading The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S. A Chakraborty 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-The City of Brass

The City of Brass: A Novel* (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S. A Chakraborty

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:

Living in eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri is a multilingual con woman. She has never had a reason to believe in magic, at least not until she accidentally summons a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara during one of her scams. Now Nahri is forced to reconsider both her beliefs and her place in the world.

This is S. A Chakraborty debut fantasy novel. It is the first of The Daevabad Trilogy.

First Sentence of The City of Brass:

He was an easy mark.

Nahri smiled behind her veil, watching the two men bicker as they approached her stall.

Discussion:

I really like the main character’s voice so far. She’s quite smart and cunning. It’s also set in an interesting time and place, at least at the beginning.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but a friend who loves books lent me her copy (Thanks, Shan.) I’m looking forward to reading more.

What do you think? Have you read The City of Brass? Do you think you might enjoy it?

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