Category: The Bestseller Code 100 (page 2 of 6)

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans, is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

 

The first line in The Horse Whisperer sets up the tone of the book quite well:

There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end.

After reading that line, how can you not read quickly through the first chapter to see who is going to die and how?

Horses And More

This story has all the components needed to suck you in: forbidden love, a life-threatening accident, a ruggedly handsome cowboy (Tom, the horse whisperer), a driven professional woman seeking healing for her daughter and herself (Annie), a teenage daughter in emotional pain (Grace), a supportive husband who fears he’s losing his family (Robert), and the big sky of Montana. Oh, and horses.  Lots of horses.

While I’m not exactly a horse person, I liked almost everything about this novel.  The characters were multi-dimensional, the storyline compelling, and the descriptions of Montana made me want to hop in the car and go see it for myself.

Initially I was shocked and angry with the story resolution.  I wanted a fairytale ending, which, of course, wasn’t possible.  “There would be death again at its end,” remember? (By the end of the book, I’d forgotten that tidbit of information.)  The only question was, who would die?

Philosophy Of Life

Early in the book we learn Tom’s philosophy of life:

“I guess that’s all forever is,” his father replied. “Just one long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now.” It seemed to Tom as good a recipe for life as he’d yet heard.

In the next to the last chapter, Tom is brought face to face by the “next now” that his living “one now at a time” has created.  Author Evans is pretty clear that Tom had options – he’s just not clear why Tom made the choice that he did.  I was left wondering if Tom was really being altruistic in his final scene or if he took the easy way out of what had become a very messy situation.

Notwithstanding the ending, I really liked this novel.  The writing was lyrical and I highlighted many quotes throughout that I thought had real depth to them.  Here are a couple:

In chapter eight, Tom explains to his soon-to-be first wife why he is leaving college and going back to being a cowboy in Montana:

“When I was working as a hand, I just couldn’t wait to get back in at night to whatever I was reading. Books had a kind of magic. But these teachers here, with all their talk, well . . . Seems to me if you talk about these things too much, the magic gets lost and pretty soon talk is all there is. Some things in life just . . . are.”

Acceptance

In chapter twenty-two, Tom has just forced Grace’s horse Pilgrim through a process that both Annie & Grace perceived as emotionally cruel and designed to break Pilgrim’s spirit.  Tom wants them to understand what really happened:

“He [Pilgrim] had the choice to go on fighting life or to accept it…. It was hard as hell, but he could have gone on. Gone on making himself more and more unhappy. But what he chose to do instead was to go to the brink and look beyond. And he saw what was there and he chose to accept it.”

“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.”

Perhaps, at the end, Tom was simply seeing clearly the way life had to be for those he loved and being true to it.

 

Have you read The Horse Whisperer? 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:

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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.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

This week we’re going a bit out of order and starting with our analysis of Nichols Evans’s  The Horse Whisperer from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion for this novel started here.)

This post contains spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

About Nicholas Evans:

British author Nicholas Evans started out as a journalist and moved into film making.  The Horse Whisperer was his debut novel.

Character Development

At times it is unclear who is the protagonist in this novel, particularly in the beginning. The first scene introduces Grace Maclean, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in Upstate New York and loves to ride her horse Pilgrim. Soon after, the narration jumps to her mother Annie and her father Robert.

Grace is involved in a horrible accident which results in her leg being amputated above the knee, and leaves Pilgrim scarred and unmanageable.  At this point the story wanders away from Grace, and she is revealed to be the impact character who sets things in the story in motion. Now the main story focuses on her parent’s responses, particularly her mother’s.

In a desperate attempt to save her daughter, who has become dangerously withdrawn, Annie realizes healing the horse might be the key to her daughter’s recovery and she looks for help. She contacts Tom Booker, a man who has a magical touch with horses, a “horse whisperer.” Because of the book’s title, and frankly because he’s a really cool guy, the reader might wonder if Tom is the protagonist. No, the story more or less follows Annie. That is, except when it follows Grace. By the end, however, it is clear Annie is the protagonist.

The lack of a  prominent protagonist doesn’t hurt the story, though.  The narration flows between characters like they are actors moving on and off the stage. Whose story it is doesn’t matter as much as the story itself.

Dialogue

“Hi!”
Tom touched the brim of his hat.
“A jogger, huh?”
She made a mock haughty face. “I don’t jog, Mr. Booker. I run.”
“That’s lucky, the grizzlies around here only go for joggers.”
Her eyes went wide. “Grizzly bears? Are you serious?”

Evans does a good job contrasting Annie’s formal voice against Tom’s lightly teasing banter. He also manages to have his characters sound American without trying too hard.

Setting

Public domain photograph of Horse in Montana via Visualhunt.com

The novel starts out in Upstate New York and then travels to the wide open skies of Montana. Although he grew up in England, Nicholas Evans has spent a lot of time in United States and his familiarity with the different regions shows.

Plot Structure

From a storytelling perspective, this novel evokes a strong emotional response, but it doesn’t follow the typical rising conflict format. In fact, it is almost the opposite. Tragic events bookend the rest of the story, with a death in the beginning and a death at the end, but it is really the horrible events in the beginning have the biggest impact.

Concluding Comments:

Nicholas Evans makes some unusual choices regarding plot and characterization  in The Horse Whisperer, but in the end the powerful storytelling wins out. It is an older novel, but it feels like it has withstood the test of time.

Did you watch the movie? Some of the details were changed at the end, like Tom and Annie do not have a sexual relationship, and Tom does not die. Which ending do you prefer? Why?

Join us on social media:

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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.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize

#BestsellerCode100: Number 91 The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

Time to start the discussion of our tenth novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. (Yes, we’ve made it to ten!)

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Published in 1995, this is probably the oldest book on the The Bestseller Code 100 challenge list. It was Nicholas Evans’s debut novel and was made into a movie with the same title.

Synopsis:  According to legend, Tom Booker can calm wild horses with his voice. Annie Graves brings her injured daughter and the family’s damaged horse all the way to the Booker ranch in Montana in the hope his reputation is real and he can help them.

Have you read The Horse Whisperer? 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 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 The Horse Whisperer? 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.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Wrap-Up Poll for One Day

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listOne Day by David Nicholls. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*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 One Day?

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

Food for Thought: Comparing Five Novels

After digesting too many serious book reviews for our Bestseller Code 100 Reading challenge, let’s ask:  If the novels we just read were types of food, what would they be?

 

novels-as-type-of-food

96. The Last Child by John Hart

Hors d’oeuvres – the tension of the unknown.  You are never quite sure what each morsel might be – satisfying, horrendous, or it could bite back! (Karen)

This book deserves something wild, unusual and also from North Carolina. What about fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and wild boar? (Roberta)

 

95. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

Boston cream pie – sweet and slides down easily, but not very substantial. (Karen)

 cherry-pie-food
Public domain photo via VisualHunt.com

I’m going to go with pie, too, in honor of the bakery that figures prominently in the story. This novel is so sweet it has to be a dessert. (Roberta)

94. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson

Given how much coffee the characters drink and how over-caffeinated the story is, coffee is an obvious choice.  How about espresso and bagels? If you’ve finished the story, you’ll know the significance of this. (Roberta)

Coffee, for sure.  You’d almost need a drip line to get enough caffeine in.  (Karen)

93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout

Succotash – something good for you but difficult to swallow.  (Karen)

As a nod to the setting, Maine baked beans seems the logical choice. They take hours of work to prepare and turn out more mundane than you had hoped. (Roberta)

92. One Day by David Nicholls

Would it be cheating to go for a drink here? Dexter has a bit of a drinking problem. Plus, the reader just might want a drink after certain parts of the book. (Roberta)

‘No, you’re drunk! You’re always drunk or off your face on something or other, every time I see you. D’you realise I literally haven’t seen you sober for, what, three years?’

Public domain photo via Visual hunt

I’m going with peanuts.  Emma worked for peanuts for a number of years and Dex probably ate a lot of them at all the bars he was at.  Do they serve peanuts with martinis & champagne, or is that only with beer? (Karen)

What about you? Do you associate any of these novels with food?

#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

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

David Nicholls’ One Day*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

One Day follows the lives of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley over the course of about twenty years, beginning July 15, 1988, the day they both graduate from university.  In the opening scene, they are lying in bed together, discussing the future and what they see for themselves now that college is over.  Even though they seem to have little in common and their lives take divergent paths, “Dex” and “Em” maintain a connection that is revealed as each subsequent chapter covers the events on the same date each year, July 15th.

It was interesting to read this book right after Olive Kitteridge.

In Olive Kitteridge, the main character, Olive, is revealed through her interactions with others and her own inner thoughts.  Each chapter introduces new characters and settings that in some way impact Olive, an ungainly and cranky woman who has difficulty finding her place within her community and difficulty connecting on an intimate, emotional level with those closest to her, including her own husband and son.  It’s only at the very end of the book that Olive realizes she has let opportunities for intimacy pass by and decides she doesn’t want to be alone anymore.  Unfortunately, I never really connected with Olive and thus didn’t really care at the end what her self-revelations were.

In One Day, we learn about Dexter and Emma through their own thoughts and actions and their interplay with each other in each chapter.  In the very first chapter, where their relationship begins with what Dexter intended to be a one-night stand, we see their short-comings, their fears, their loneliness.  For the most part, they already know who they are.  Throughout the book we see how they navigate adulthood and try to follow their dreams.  We follow the ups and downs of their relationship and wonder if they will ever admit to each other the true depth of their feelings.

I was able to connect with Dexter and Emma.  Their uncertainties, their dreams, their actions, all seemed believable.  I’ve felt them; I know friends and relatives that have done and acted similarly.  What wasn’t clear to me, and wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book, is why their bond formed on that very first day.  Exactly what did Emma see in Dexter that led her to hang on to their friendship through the difficult times (although she did ultimately break off communications for a couple of years).  Those last chapters in the book revealed new depths to Dexter, depths we might not have believed if we had seen them at the beginning of the book, given his subsequent actions.

I really liked One Day and thought it was the book that Olive Kitteridge wanted to be.

Both Olive Kitteridge and One Day were made into movies and I’m looking forward to watching both and comparing the movies to the books.  Have you read the books?  Seen the movies?  Tell me what you thought of either, or both!

 

What did you think of One Day? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

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 91 on the list, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017.  This books is classified as Literary Fiction.

#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

#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

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