Author: Roberta (page 2 of 14)

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of World War Z by Max Brooks

It’s time to wrap up our discussion of  World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks with a review from a writer’s perspective  (discussion started here). We’re going to focus on the traits emphasized by the authors of The Bestseller Code (see previous review).

This post contains spoilers.

 

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War* by Max Brooks (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

World War Z is an epistolary novel. In this case, the author wrote the book as a collection of transcripts of interviews with survivors of a zombie outbreak. Because the reader is seeing the characters through the filter of an interviewer/narrator, it gives some emotional distance from the personal accounts, and also gives a unifying connection between the diverse stories.

In her recent review, Karen tackled the topics/themes (The Bestseller Code Chapter 2) of the novel and the emotional turns or beats (The Bestseller Code Chapter 3).  I’m going to take up where she left off and discuss points made in Chapter 4 and 5 of The Bestseller Code.

Style (The Bestseller Code Chapter 4)

Each author has an individual writing technique. An author’s word choice, sentence length, paragraph length, grammar, etc. determine the tone and pacing of a novel. In The Bestseller Code, Archer and Jockers point out that the first line of a novel should give the reader important insight into the writer’s style.

First Sentence of Introduction to World War Z:

It goes by many names:  “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The Walking Plague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.”

What do you notice about this sentence? To me, the author uses a nonfiction tone, as if relating a list of facts. The sentence is grammatically complex, with the inclusion of a colon, which reveals a certain comfort with grammar. It’s also a bit conversational in tone, particularly the slang term “hip.” The tone is a nod to the fact that this is an “oral” history.

Other things to consider are whether there are numerous contractions (indicating realistic-sounding dialogue), use of ellipses (which also indicate good dialogue), and fewer adverbs and adjectives (resulting in shorter, cleaner sentences). Without a computer it is difficult to accurately assess how well Max Brooks met those criteria, but simply flipping through the pages it was easy to spot contractions and ellipses.

 

airplane-max-brooks

Title and Characters (The Bestseller Code Chapter 5)

 Title:

The Bestseller Code analysis suggests the best titles for novels are places, events, things, or a character’s role. Using these categories, World War Z fits right in because it is an event.

Taking the analysis a step further, the full title, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a similar title to The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. This is not by accident. According to an interview at NPR, Max Brooks listened to Terkel’s history as an audio book and it made a huge impression on him. He liked the idea of a series of stories that people could read in order, or pick and choose what they read.

Characters:

With over forty characters, Max Brooks set himself up with a difficult task by having to create a unique voice for every single character. Some reviewers have suggested the characters sound too much alike, but I thought he changed the flavor at least some of them enough to give the impression of different voices.

For example:

Former U.S. Army Infantryman Todd Wainio throws around technical terms and slang.

You had tanks?
Dude, we had everything:  tanks, Bradleys, Humvees armed with everything from fifty cals to these new Vasilek heavy mortars.

Director of Department of Strategic Resources Arthur Sinclair, Jr. talks like a college professor.

To be perfectly candid, our supply of talent was at a critical low. Ours was a postindustrial or service-based economy, so complex and highly specialized that each individual could only function within the confines of its narrow, compartmentalized structure.

Mercenary T. Sean Collins speaks in lists.

Maybe I was a mercenary, but you’d never know it to look at me. I was clean-cut, nice car, nice house, even a housekeeper who came in once a week. I had plenty of friends, marriage prospects, and my handicap at the golf club was almost as good as the pros.

Conclusions:

World War Z is an odd mix. In some ways it seems like a brilliant analysis of war. In other ways it seems like a parody. It is hard to give weight to a novel that treats zombies as a threat. On the other hand, the horrors of war and the human behaviors under stress it depicts are very real. Whether you like the book may tip in one direction or the other depending on your own experiences and interests.

Have you read World War Z by Max Brooks? 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 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford (2001) -mystery (series)- Discussion begins May 29, 2017

#BookBeginnings The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott

Let’s take a look at The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott 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-J-Todd-scott

The Far Empty* by J. Todd Scott

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

I picked up this book because J. Todd Scott is a local author who is coming to visit our writing group next week. The Far Empty has been touted as a “Western crime novel.”

The author is a federal agent who has worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for over twenty years.

Blurb:   When skeletal remains are discovered in a small Texas border town, both seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross and sheriff’s deputy Chris Cherry suspect the young man’s father, Sheriff Ross, is the murderer.

First Sentence:

My father has killed three men.

Discussion:

I think that lets the reader know what to expect right up front.

You can’t really tell from only one sentence, but from what I’ve read so far it appears that each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character.

Don’t you think it sounds like both main characters have a lot to lose if the Sheriff is involved?


#BookBeginnings World War Z by Max Brooks

Today we’re featuring the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks 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 linked above. Hope to see you there!

Max-Brooks

Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War*  (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   World War Z is an example of an epistolary novel.  It is written as a collection of witness accounts of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

First Sentence:

It goes by many names:  “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The Walking Plague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.”

Discussion:

The quote is from the “Introduction,” which reads like the introduction of a nonfiction book.

Neither my co-blogger, Karen, nor I are fans of horror, so this is going to be challenging for us to read. Hopefully the journalistic voice will help distance the reader from the more gruesome events.

Zombies were a popular topic when this book was written. Do you think it has remained relevant?

Have you read this book? What do you think?

Four New Novels by Authors On The #BestsellerCode100 List

Are you looking for new novels to read for summer? Four of the authors on The Bestseller Code best 100 list (our ongoing reading challenge) have books coming out.

 

New-Novels-By-The Bestseller Code-List-Authors

 

Let’ take a look at them in the order we have been reading, starting with Number 100.

We read Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island starting on November 7, 2016.  In the novel, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels travels to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island to find out what has happened to a woman who mysteriously disappeared. As the investigation deepens, Daniels uncovers more questions than answers.

Lehane’s newest, Since We Fell*, was released May 9, 2017. It features Rachel, who suffers from agoraphobia and panic attacks. What happens when she spots her husband somewhere he isn’t supposed to be?

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Want to find out more? There’s an interview with Dennis Lehane and book excerpt at Here and Now.

#####

We read Number 93, which was Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories, Olive Kitterage, starting February 13, 2017.

Her newest, released April 25, 2017, is also a collection of short stories.

Anything Is Possible* by Elizabeth Strout

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

There’s an informative article about it in The New Yorker.

#####

We’ll be reading Number 86, John Sandford’s Easy Prey, in a few weeks.

His newest in the series, Golden Prey*, came out April 25, 2017

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

John Sandford discusses his most recent book at a book signing at Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

#####

Finally, we have Paula Hawkins, who wrote Number 45, The Girl on the Train.

Her new novel, Into the Water*, came out May 2, 2017.

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Paula Hawkins  recently chatted live on FaceBook, sponsored by USA Today Life.

Looks like some great new novels to pick up for your summer reading.

Have you spotted any new books by authors on our list?

#BestsellerCode100: Starting Number 87 – World War Z by Max Brooks

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listWorld War Z:  An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War* by Max Brooks (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

What it’s about:   World War Z is written as a collection of witness accounts/interviews of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The journalistic tone gives this imaginative work a nonfiction feel.

Genre:  It is considered to be horror or apocalyptic horror.

Have you read World War Z:  An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks? 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
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our wrap-up poll.

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 World War Z:  An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks? Feel free to add a link to your review here.


__________________

What are we reading after World War Z?

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 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford (2001) -mystery (series)- Discussion begins May 29, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Weird Sisters

Let’s take a look at The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion began here.)

This post contains spoilers.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

What it’s about: Three grown sisters return to their hometown when their mother falls ill. Although they grew up together and all were named after characters in Shakespeare’s plays by their father, the three sisters couldn’t be more different. Will the crisis pull them together or break them apart?

Characters

The three sisters are the main characters, and they share the mantle more or less equally. They are — in birth order — responsible math instructor Rosalind (Rose), chic New Yorker Bianca (Bean), and transient hippie Cordelia (Cordy).

Their mother serves as impact character. Because of events that happen to her, she drives the plot. When she develops breast cancer, the sisters return to their childhood home to be with her. Later, another trip to the hospital changes the dynamic between the sisters. Interestingly, the mother remains unnamed through the novel. She is simply “mother.” Because she appears to drive the plot without having much other relevance, she could be called a MacGuffin.

Their father, James Andreas, is a professor who teaches Shakespeare at the local college. In the novel, he serves as a contagonist of sorts, reacting strongly when Cordy reveals she is pregnant.

Setting

The novel is set in the fictional town of Barnwell, Ohio. It is a typical small Midwestern college town where the faculty and students outnumber the local residents. Rose’s dream is to land a permanent position at the college.

As in most small towns, the residents have known each other for a long time. Their pasts intertwine.

 

College-Ohio-The-Weird-Sisters
Photo credit: Larry Miller via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Unique Voice of The Weird Sisters

One of the unique features of the novel is that it is written in omniscient first person plural. At first the three sisters speak in unison, as if their minds connect into one. Ironically, they speak as one while explaining they aren’t all that loving and cohesive:

We see stories in magazines or newspapers sometimes, or read novels, about the deep and loving relationship between sisters. Sisters are supposed to be tight and connected, sharing family history and lore, laughing over misadventures. But we are not that way. We never have been, really, because even our partnering was more for spite than for love.

As the book progresses and the sisters mature, however, the first person plural starts to fade somewhat as the narration follows each sister. Is it because they have now established their own identities or because the author tired of it as a device? I suspect the former.

Have you read the book? What did you think of the first person plural voice?

Themes

The main theme of the book explores how birth order effects the sisters and their destinies. Even the title refers to it, because the word “weird” takes on the older meaning of its origin word, “Wyrd” or fate. Are the sisters’ fates determined by birth order or can they break free?

A lesser theme is that of stealing or theft. Each of the sisters steals something during the course of the book. Bianca (Bean) is the only one who commits a serious theft and is caught, but even she isn’t made to face severe consequences. She’s merely asked to pay back the money she stole and loses her job. Why do you think the sisters steal? How does it reflect on their characters? Their Midwestern upbringing?

Comments

Reading The Weird Sisters really drives home how different all the novels on this list are. This one is a sweet, close examination of the relationship between three sisters. How did it end up on the same list as the next book, a horror novel about zombies? Perhaps it is time to revisit The Bestseller Code (reviewed here) and see what traits the authors used to pick the novels on the list.

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 87. World War Z by Max Brooks (2006) – Discussion begins May 8, 2017

#BookBeginnings The Talker by Mary Sojourner

For Book Beginnings on Fridays, let’s take a look at The Talker: Stories by Mary Sojourner.

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-mary-sojourner

The Talker: Stories* by Mary Sojourner

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Rather than a novel, this work is a collection of short stories set in the western U.S., particularly the Mojave desert.

I’m looking forward to reading these. I attended a writing workshop with the author a few weeks ago at a local indie bookstore. She is one of those people that fill a room with their presence. It may be cliché, but there’s no other way to describe her. At the workshop she revealed it had taken her over twenty years to finish these stories.

First sentence of the first short story (“Great Blue”):

“It all started with black olives, the bogus kind, the ones that look like patent leather and taste worse.”

Discussion:

Seems like quite a bit of detail for the beginning of a short story, but it does evoke the desert setting. We can grow olives here and in fact, have a local olive-processing plant.

Some people are surprised to learn olives can’t be eaten from the tree, but must be processed to be edible.

If you’d like to see more from the book, there’s an excerpt of one of the short stories, “Up Near Pasco,” on Mary Sojourner’s website.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 88. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

What it’s about: Three grown sisters return to their hometown when their mother falls ill. Although they grew up together and all were named after characters in Shakespeare’s plays by their father, the three sisters couldn’t be more different. Will the crisis pull them together or break them apart?

Quirky fact:  This book is written in the first person plural.

 

weird sisters

 

Have you read The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first few lines 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 Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown? 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 87. World War Z by Max Brooks (2006) – Discussion begins May 8, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Unaccustomed Earth Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

Unaccustomed Earth* by Jhumpa Lahiri

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of Unaccustomed Earth?

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

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.

The next book is number 88. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011) – Discussion begins April 24, 2017.

No End to Trouble

A month or so ago author Marianna Heusler contacted me about reviewing her cozy mystery No End to Trouble: A St. Polycarp Elementary School Mystery. It is the third book in a series and the fourth is coming out soon.

 

Mrs. Hopwood and Mrs. Johnson are friends who teach at St. Polycarp, a Catholic school. When the head master leaves, the new principal shakes things up. Even worse, a cafeteria lady dies. Will the two be able to figure out who killed her without riling the new principal enough to lose their jobs?

Does it sound like something you’d like to read? Here’s an excerpt from page one to help you decide.

He heard footsteps behind him.
He stopped and saw the shadow of someone dressed in black.
He opened his mouth to ask if the person needed help, but he never uttered a word.
Instead he saw the flash of a metal object come flying towards him and hit his skull with a massive force. He heard something crack and he tasted hot blood, as it poured into his eyes and his nose.

Intrigued? As of today, the Kindle Unlimited e-book version is available for free at Amazon.

Series: St.Polycarp Elementary School Mysteries
Paperback: 282 pages
Publisher: Hilliard & Harris (August 9, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1591334128
ISBN-13: 978-1591334125

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 It's A Mystery Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑