Author: Roberta (page 2 of 11)

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of One Day by David Nicholls

Let’s take a look at the most recent novel in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, One Day by David Nicholls, from a writer’s perspective. The discussion began February 27, 2017.

This post contains spoilers.

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Dexter and Emma meet at the University of Edinburgh, and they spend graduation night together on July 15, 1988. The story follows how the relationship progresses each year on July 15, running through July 15, 2006.

Plot/Structure

Can you imagine how difficult this novel must have been to plot? Told chronologically (for the most part), it is built on events that occur on only one day every year. David Nicholls has restricted himself by this premise on top of the usual issues of pacing, rising conflict, etc.

The good news is that he tells it beautifully. Nothing is predictable, yet the story flows seamlessly as time progresses. It’s like watching a complex and flawless juggling act. You have to applaud.

Character Development

Having two main characters vying for attention is also not easy to manage. Readers tend to prefer one clear protagonist. Once again, Nicholls is able to pull it off.

As Karen points out in her review,  the main characters are flawed, but much more likeable than the titular character in Olive Kitteridge. Dexter starts out irresponsible and immature. Emma is more mature, but lacks self confidence. Both have plenty of room to grow and change over the years, which gives satisfying character arcs.

Dialogue

‘I keep getting your brothers muddled up.’

‘A good way to remember it is Sam’s hateful and Murray’s foul.’

“Don’t think they like me very much.’

‘They don’t like anyone apart from themselves.’

Nicholls doesn’t get to tied down by a lot of dialogue tags, perhaps because of he started out acting and writing screenplays.

In the book beginnings post, we had a discussion about the fact this novel uses single quotations for dialogue. Apparently this is acceptable for novels published in Britain. Perhaps everyone should adopt it, as it takes up less space and requires the writer to spend less time shifting on the keyboard.

Setting

Although the two main characters meet at the University of Edinburgh, much of the novel takes place in London. The physical setting isn’t as prominent as in some of the other novels we’ve read so far. Perhaps, again, that comes from the author’s background as a screenwriter.

That said, the cultural setting is a significant part of the story.

 


Public domain photo via Visual hunt

 

My Personal Comments About One Day

The best part of One Day is the way it explores how relationships form and change over time. We’ve probably all met people we had chemistry with, but for any number of reasons the relationships did not develop. Things get in the way such as opposing jobs/careers, not being ready for a relationship, age differences, one or both parties already have partners, cultural/religious differences, etc.  David Nicholls gives us hope that even though some of these windows to the heart are closed at one point in our lives, perhaps in the future they may reopen. In that way, it might not be so different from the ending message in Olive Kitteridge, which is about finding love and companionship during the autumn years. Maybe it is this message about openness to relationships that has put these two novels on The Bestseller Code 100 list.

Have you read One Day? What did you think?

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 for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge?

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 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017

#BookBeginnings Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Today we’re highlighting Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta 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. Once you’ve posted, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-michael-koryta

Those Who Wish Me Dead* by Michael Koryta

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

I read and liked Michael Koryta’s first two novels, Tonight I Said Goodbye and Sorrow’s Anthem. The main characters of both novels were private investigators who seemed to really know the business. After taking a writing workshop with Mr. Koryta, I found out why.  He has a degree in criminal justice and has worked as a private investigator. No wonder the details were realistic.

This thriller is a sharp change of direction from his previous works.

Summary:   Jace Wilson is the only witness to a murder, so the authorities must protect him. They give him a new identity and send him to a remote wilderness-survival program to hide. It isn’t long, however, before the highly-motivated killers are on his track.

First Sentence:

On the last day of Jace Wilson’s life, the fourteen-year-old stood on the quarry ledge staring at the cool, still water and finally understood something his mother had told him years before:  Trouble might come for you when you showed fear, but trouble doubled-down when you lied about being afraid.

Discussion:

“On the last day of Jace Wilson’s life…”? Those first few words are quite a hook.

Have you read anything by Michael Koryta? Have you read this book?

I always forget when to hyphenate ages, but in this quote “fourteen-year-old” is a noun, so I think it is properly hyphenated.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Number 92 One Day By David Nicholls

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, One Day by David Nicholls

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Starting on July 15, 1988 and running through July 15, 2006, the story reveals how Dexter and Emma’s relationship progresses on one day each year, July 15.

One Day was also made into a movie.

one-day-david-nicholls

Have you read One Day? Watched the movie? 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 survey.

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 One Day? 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 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Olive Kitteridge Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

 

(*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 Olive Kitteridge?

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 92. One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017

#BookBeginnings One Day by David Nicholls

Today we’re highlighting a novel originally published in 2010, One Day by David Nicholls, 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’re done, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Starting on July 15, 1988 and running through July 15, 2006, the story unfolds by revealing how Dexter and Emma’s relationship progresses on one day each year, July 15.

Of course they made it into a movie.

Note:  We’re reading this book next for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge.

First Sentence:

‘I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,’ she said. ‘You know, actually change something.’

Discussion:

Does anyone know why the author uses single quotation marks for the dialogue? I looked and it seems to be carried throughout the book.

Seems like an interesting premise for a book.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Olive Kitteridge

Let’s analyze Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout from a writer’s perspective. The discussion began February 13, 2017.

This post contains spoilers.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This title won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009, so you would think it would be easy to review from a writer’s perspective. Obviously, it was chosen as the best novel written that year. I should be gushing about the writing. So why am I having so much difficulty?

One reason may be the novel is:

olive-kitterage-literary-fiction

Literary fiction has its own pace. To use an analogy, literary fiction is a slow drive through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon. The pace is slow. It meanders. It looks at the pretty scenery.  The car (plot) occasionally encounters some bad weather or a pothole or two,  but all in all it is a leisurely trip.

Compare that to a genre fiction, such as mysteries. In mysteries you don’t know where you are going, but you are usually traveling along at highway speeds, so you’re going to arrive in a reasonable amount of time. You are probably going to have some near misses and perhaps encounter some real danger to keep you alert.

Thrillers are the opposite of literary fiction. In a thriller the plot charges like a race car in a fight for its life. The events occur at a lightning fast pace and your adrenaline is flowing. The scenery may be reduced to a blur, with your focus directed to what’s ahead.

The bottom line is that sometimes you want to be in a race car and sometimes a Sunday drive is what you need. For whatever reason, I didn’t enjoy traveling in the car with Olive Kitteridge.

Plot/Structure

Unlike the rest of the novels we’ve read so far, this novel is organized into 13 short stories. As to be expected with literary fiction, the story does not proceed chronologically, but jumps back and forth in time.

Character

The main character is a woman named Olive Kitteridge. During the first part of her life she is a school teacher. She is curmudgeonly. She treats her husband Henry badly — for no apparent reason — and clashes with her son. In short, she has all the flaws of a real person.  Many readers will find her a difficult character to like, to identify with, or to root for.

Setting

Olive Kitteridge lives in the small town of Crosby, Maine. From the very first line, it is apparent that the author lives in Maine and has a strong connection to the state. The handling of the setting was outstanding.

 

maine-olive-kitteridge
Public domain photo via Visual hunt

Themes

Themes are usually well-developed in literary fiction, and this novel is no exception. The theme of suicide reoccurs throughout the short stories. There’s also a theme of how people struggle with love and relationships.  Another theme is loss, such as loss of youth and loss of Olive’s son when he moves to California, etc.

My Personal Comments About Olive Kitteridge

I know how difficult writing a novel is and usually I try not to be too hard on an author if he or she makes a few mistakes.  Because this novel has received so many accolades, however, I don’t mind being honest about not liking it. Specifically, although other reviewers have commented on the profound emotional impact of the stories, I felt manipulated. There were too many artificial constructs and convenient coincidences. For example, the scene in the hospital rang completely false to me. Stopping at  a hospital to use the bathroom when they were only 15 minutes from home was moderately contrived. Keeping her there for an exam was illogical and unrealistic. To have men with guns show up to steal drugs on top of it was so flimsy it made me roll my eyes. Yes, random bad things do occur in real life, but to me it all happened to set up a confrontation. I was unable to suspend my disbelief. I could see the author’s hand under the puppets.

Good thing I’m not a member of the Pulitzer Prize committee.

Have you read Olive Kitteridge? What did you think?

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 92. One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Number 93 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. This title won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO mini-series.

This post does not contain spoilers.

Olive Kitteridge* by Elizabeth Strout

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Book Blurb:  Olive Kitteridge lives in the small town of Crosby, Maine, where she touches the lives of those around her and is also changed by their presence.

To give you an idea what the book entails,  check out this trailer from the HBO miniseries.

 

 

Have you read Olive Kitteridge? 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 survey.

Have you written about Olive Kitteridge? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

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 92. One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: The Girl Who Kicked Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson . The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.


(*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 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest?

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 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

Note: Olive Kitterage won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

#BookBeginnings Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Today we’re highlighting Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize Winner Olive Kitteridge 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-elizabeth-strout

Olive Kitteridge* by Elizabeth Strout (2008)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  A classic example of literary fiction, this novel reveals the life of school teacher Olive Kitteridge as she interacts with  her family and acquaintances in the small town of Crosby, Maine.

First Sentence:

For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy.

Discussion:

Interesting that the author chooses to introduce the main character’s husband before the main character.

Have you read Olive Kitteridge?

Do you like literary fiction?

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

As you may know, we have been reading through the list of the 100 bestsellers picked by the computer algorithm as revealed in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers.

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 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Girl Who Kicked

For my writer’s review of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson I’m going to take a different tack than I used for some of the other books. For this title, I’m going to discuss more about the author and how the book came about.

Note:  this post may contain a few spoilers.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

As you may know, we have been reading through the list of the 100 bestsellers picked by the computer algorithm as revealed in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Book number 94 on the list, Hornet’s Nest is actually the third in the Millenium trilogy featuring flawed genius Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

Summary: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest starts where the second (The Girl Who Played with Fire ) left off, with Lisbeth headed to the hospital with a bullet in her head. She’s been accused of murders she didn’t commit. Will she survive long enough to be able to prove her innocence?

Writing Discussion:

The story behind the trilogy is almost as amazing as the books themselves. Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist who wrote the novels in the evening as a break from his day job.  He wrote three novels and then sold them to a publisher. A short time later, in 2004,  he passed away. The publishers put out the first book in Swedish in 2005. It was a huge hit. It was translated into English and became a worldwide bestseller.

Much of the criticism of the books relates to the writing. At the face of it, what Stieg Larsson does as a writer often flies in the face of the “rules.” For example, he writes largely from the omniscient viewpoint, when first-person and tight third-person point of views are more popular. Some of the dialogue exhibits “talking heads,”  which is when two people talk back and forth without action or even labels to identify who is speaking.

Example “Talking Head” Dialogue:

It’s about one of your patients, Lisbeth Salander. I need to visit her.”

“You’ll have to get permission from the prosecutor. She’s under arrest, and all visitors are prohibited. Any applications for visits must be referred in advance to Salander’s lawyer.”

“Yes, yes I know. I thought we could cut through all the red tape in this case…”

{{Pages 170-171. Continues for another 27 lines without a single dialogue tag.}}

He also spends a lot of time in the character’s heads, showing their thoughts.  And speaking of characters, like fellow journalist Joe Klein in Primary Colors, Larsson packs in many, many characters. At one point there were four different teams investigating the murders, each with more than a handful of people. The reader needs a game card to keep them all straight.

 

sweden-barn-writer

Photo of Swedish barn via Visualhunt.com

But Whose Words?

Alas, it is unfair to  criticize Stieg Larsson as a writer after reading the English translation because it might not reflect his original words. It turns out the translator, Steven T. Murray, was so unhappy with how the British publisher interfered with the translation that he insisted the books be published under a pseudonym, Reg Keeland. See more about why Murray chose a pseudonym in an article at Southwest Writers. Fascinating!

Conclusion:

Regardless of the writing or who is responsible for it, Stieg Larsson created characters who are spellbinding and he is a fabulous storyteller. Although some parts of the narrative are dark and disturbing, the ending is one of hope. In my opinion, this is the best book from the list we’ve read so far.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. The first book was originally published in Swedish as Män som hatar kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women. When it was translated, it became The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Given one of the themes in the books is the empowerment of women, what do you think Stieg Larsson would have thought of the name change?
  2. There have been a flurry of “Girl” books lately, such as Gone Girl and Girl on a Train.  Do you think the publishers are trying to cash in on the popularity of Stieg Larsson’s books?
  3. What do you think about writing axioms, such as the one to avoid “talking heads”? Are they important or are they meant to be broken?

Related:  If you enjoyed the books you might also enjoy this satire piece from The New Yorker, “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut” by Nora Ephron.

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 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

Note: Olive Kitterage won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

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