Tag: Bestseller Code 100 (page 1 of 15)

#BestsellerCode100: Informal Discussion of The Casual Vacancy

Rather than doing two formal reviews of each novel, Karen and I have decided to discuss each title from  The Bestseller Code 100 list more informally on our facebook page and post an edited version here. We’ll see how it works.

This post does contain spoilers.

This week we have The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: In the little town of Pagford, Barry Fairbrother’s seat on the council comes open when he dies unexpectedly. Behind the scenes of Pagford’s idyllic small town atmosphere are different groups of residents who are regularly at odds with each other; rich fight with the poor, teenagers battle and annoy their parents, wives attack their husbands, teachers grapple with their pupils. Before long, however, Barry’s empty seat on the town’s council soon becomes prize for the biggest brawl the town has ever seen.

Our Thoughts

We’re moving on to The Casual Vacancy. Have you read it? Any interest in reading it?

Karen  I’m still getting to know the characters. It’s interesting that the very first chapter the pivotal character dies…or at least it seems like he’s going to be a pivotal character.

Roberta Yes, the character’s death is an inciting incident. I’m looking forward to seeing what, if any, elements are common to Rowling’s works.

Karen  I just finished a segment where social worker Kay, Gaia’s mother, is at the home of Terri Weedon, a drug addict. This is definitely not the fantasy world of Harry Potter.

Roberta  She seemed to want to make it very clear this wasn’t a children’s book, with all the expletives, sex, violence, and drugs. She might have taken it too far to make the point? That said, there are some commonalities. For example, kids at a school play a big role. Plus, she creates an enormous cast of characters.

Karen  I took a break for a few days is illness and travel, but I’m still reading “Casual Vacancy.” This is one of the more complex books we’ve read so far, both in the number and depth of the characters and their intertwined lives. You almost forget the overarching plot of Barry Fairbrother’s death and resulting vacancy in the board. It’s nothing like the Harry Potter books and yet it is.

Roberta  Rowling’s ability to create and weave together so many interesting, relatable, and largely likeable characters — who are each memorable and unique — is a remarkable talent. I will refrain from saying more until you finish.

Karen  Finished! So much happened in the last 10% or so that I’m going to have to reread it. Wow.
More thoughts on “Casual Vacancy” – I reread the last 15% of the book and then skimmed through the beginning to find segments of Barry Fairbrother’s funeral. 3 deaths, as foreshadowed in the song sang at the funeral. And unexpected deaths/funerals bookend the novel.

Of all the books we’ve read, this is one that has wormed it’s way into my brain. I keep considering the characters, how they intertwined, how they changed throughout the story. None come through unscathed.

This novel is categorized as Tragicomedy? Obviously I don’t understand the term comedy. There’s no humor anywhere. Why would this not be literary fiction like some others we’ve read, such as “State of Wonder” or “Little Bee?”

Roberta Perhaps the “comedy” is the ridiculousness that results in the tragic events? What could be described as “cruel jokes”? But, I agree, nothing to grin or giggle at.

As far as literary, I think that literary is an exploration of one person’s inner life in detail, and this is much too distant from any one character to qualify for that. In Casual Vacancy we see binocular-range views of many characters, rather than a microscope-level view of one or a few people like State of Wonder? At least that’s my understanding how literary works.

Karen  You have a much better understanding of of these genres than I do!

Roberta  Looking at the characteristics of literary fiction on Wikipedia, it does fit the first and last of them well: concern with human condition and the overall dark storyline.

I’m not seeing the inner story, introspective aspect as much, and this one has a clear plot.

What do you all think about the style and complexity of the writing? Is it lyrical? “Fancy?”

Karen  I didn’t find it lyrical. More gritty and real-life. She’s definitely lived the life of the have-nots.

Roberta Yes, it is well-known that she lived on government assistance as a single mother and her experience shows.

That wraps up our discussion for this novel.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join our discussion on Facebook or follow on other 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 47. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011) – Discussion begins February 25, 2019
Domestic Fiction

#BestsellerCode100 Writer’s Review of The Martian

Let’s take a look at The Martian by Andy Weir from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Martian by Andy Weir

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  When a freak accident leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on Mars, — with no one aware that he survived — his chances of making it back to Earth safely are nonexistent. That, however, doesn’t stop the rebellious mechanical engineer/botanist from figuring out how to survive.

Path to Publication:  The Martian became a bestseller in an unusual way. Andy Weir started out publishing a chapter at a time via a newsletter to about 3000 science and technology-oriented readers. He admits he did that because he didn’t think the novel would have mainstream appeal. However, after he self-published it (giving it away for free at first!), it was picked up by a traditional publisher. Eventually he sold over 5 million copies and the novel was made into a major movie (See more details at StoryFix.)

Characters

At the beginning of the book, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded alone on Mars. How do you create a compelling story with one lone character? First of all, Weir makes Watney endearing and someone who readers will root for.

He also puts his main character in the direst of circumstances. At first neither the crew on Earth nor the astronauts who left him behind know that Watney has survived and there isn’t any way to communicate with them. Although there is another landing scheduled, it isn’t for an number of years and may be cancelled because of his supposedly fatal accident. He is quickly running out of supplies, especially food. The tension is incredible. How can he possibly survive?

Instead of dialogue, Weir reveals Watney’s thoughts and feelings through a diary/log. He writes in a conversational, humorous tone, which helps move the story ahead quickly.

Plot

Weir says he used a series of problems and solutions to drive the plot. Each time either Watney or the supporting characters solve one problem, they either discover another or the solution causes another problem. And the problems just keep coming.

If you are interested, StoryFix also deconstructs the plot by finding pinch points, etc.

Setting

The secret to Weir’s success is in the scientific details. By picking the planet Mars, Weir has chosen an intensely real setting for his science fiction. Weir did a lot of research, including creating trajectories for his spacecraft and even picking a particular launch date, although no dates are given in the text.

Since publication, we have learned a few things were inaccurate. For example,  recent studies have shown Martian soil has more water than Weir thought. Still, the Mars setting makes the story realistic and concrete.

 

Mars Dust Storm NASA

Discussion

The Martian is truly a one-of-a-kind novel. It is a perfect mix of compelling storytelling and hard science underpinnings. The unbearable tension and rapid-fire action make it an excellent read. This is one of the best novels on our list so far and one that all writers — not just those work in science fiction — should study.

Edit:  Here’s a bit of our discussion from Facebook:

RG — I was thinking about his problem/solution plot structure — which is often used in thrillers — when I realized the novel also reveals something bad is going to happen and the suspense is whether or not the protagonist can stop it from happening. It is a classic thriller set up. So, it is a science fiction thriller?

KG — Good point. I think that is one reason I enjoyed it so. It wasn’t filled with off space creatures, but instead every day problems that just happened to create life or death situations. And it was up to our hero to overcome every challenge thrown his way, even sometimes those he himself created.

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 number49. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (2012) – Discussion begins January 28, 2019
Tragicomedy

#BestsellerCode100: Number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Martian by Andy Weir.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Martian by Andy Weir

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When a freak accident leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on Mars with no one aware that he survived, his chances of making it back to Earth safely are nonexistent.  That, however, doesn’t stop the rebellious mechanical engineer and botanist from figuring out how to survive.

Have you read The Martian by Andy Weir? 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 Martian by Andy Weir? 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 number49. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (2012) – Discussion begins January 28, 2019
Tragicomedy

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to review our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he throws a ball that hits his roommate and friend Owen in the face. Will Henry be able to overcome the crippling self doubt that puts his future career in baseball — and even his life — in jeopardy?

Literary Fiction

As Karen mentioned in her review, this novel is an example of literary fiction.  If reading through this Bestseller Code list has taught me nothing else, it has revealed to me how much I dislike reading literary fiction. Spending excessive time in a person’s head mulling over his or her inner turmoil is claustrophobic. Even when a character does something interesting it is so overthought and overwrought that it loses impact.

It is a matter of taste, of course. Everyone has their own preferences. For example, I absolutely love ballet. I would gladly give up much to see someone dance for a couple of hours. Some people, on the other hand, would rather be poked with forks than subjected to the same performance.

Come to think of it reading this novel was rather like being poked with forks; ones which, of course, Pella washes afterwards.

 

Let’s review the specifics.

Characters

The characters in the book all intertwine in ways that makes six degrees of separation seem capricious. First we meet Mike Schwartz, a college athlete who has the skills to make things happen. When he sees Henry Skrimshander chase balls after a game, he realizes the kid has talent. He brings Henry to Westish college to play baseball. Henry’s roommate is Owen, the object of affection for Westish College President Affenlight who is the father of Pella who starts a relationship with Mike, but then sleeps with Henry.  Yes, it is all a bit incestuous to say the least.

In fact, so much so that when Affenlight begins to pine for the affection of a mysterious “O” it didn’t take a second to guess that it is Owen. It couldn’t be anyone else. There isn’t anyone else.

Setting

The vast majority of the “action” (I use that term loosely) takes place at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin.  The campus resembles many others,

“…the green groomed lawn and the gray stone buildings that surrounded it, the sun just risen over the steamy lake and the mirrored-glass facade of the library…”

yet intimidates Henry, who doesn’t feel like he belongs.

Themes

Literary fiction is all about themes. Along with themes about human relationships (which may be why the computer chose it), I noticed a strong theme of people’s relationships with food. Specifically, people depriving themselves of or pushing away food.

For example, on page 156 Pella :

“Once , late at night, not long after she’d moved to San Francisco, she’d really, really wanted to cut up a slightly mushy avocado and rub the pit in her hands. It was an ecstasy-type desire, though she hadn’t taken ecstasy. She made David drive her to three supermarkets to find the right avocado. She told him she was craving guacamole — a more acceptable urge, if just barely. Luckily he’d fallen asleep while she was rolling the slimy pit in her palms, pretending to make guacamole. In the morning, having buried the chips and the yellow-green mush in the kitchen trash, she claimed to have eaten it all. She still had no idea how to make guacamole. “

On page 185, Owen reveals when he broke up with his boyfriend Jason that he had stopped eating. Henry was there to force him to eat. Later Owen, who is vegan, also refuses to eat fish.

On page 415, we find out roommates Noelle and Courtney live on red wine and Red Bull. On the next page, Henry has also given up on eating, and maybe drinking coffee, too.

“The thought of no more coffee and no more food made him momentarily happy.”

Rejecting food is a symbol for the emotional pain of the character.

I recently read a discussion about counter themes. In this case Henry’s use of the body building powder would be a counter theme.

Discussion

With literary fiction, we expect a lot of “fancy” writing to show off the author’s cleverness. Although Harbach’s writing is complex, as seen in the avocado paragraph above, it stays pretty much grounded. There aren’t any tricks or gimmicks, unlike Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. For that, I applaud.

If you’d like to read more about the author and how the book came about, Vanity Fair has an interesting article from 2014. The Atlantic also has an insightful review.

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 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Let’s look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a reader’s perspective.

For a summary of The Art of Fielding, please check out its introductory post.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Literary Fiction

The Art of Fielding is our second book in a row from the Literary Fiction genre, but it couldn’t be more different from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   Whereas Extremely Loud felt disjointed, confused, even haphazard in its presentation, The Art of Fielding led me on a journey of human emotions almost seamlessly, flowing easily from one chapter to the next.  Instead of feeling as though I was being dragged through the author’s artistic journey without a road map, as was the case with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Art of Fielding led me slowly but surely along the intended path, picking up the author’s breadcrumbs (foreshadowing) and never panicking that I was lost or had missed some vital direction sign.  And on top of that, it was a very satisfying journey.

Henry’s Collapse

Henry’s sole reason for being is to be the best shortstop ever, just like his idol St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Aparicio Rodriquez, who wrote a treatise on playing shortstop, The Art of Fielding. Henry has read this book so many times, he knows it by heart and often refers to its nuggets of baseball (life) truisms.

 3.  There are three stages:  Thoughtless being.  Thought.  Return to thoughtless being.

33.  Do not confuse the first and third stages.  Thoughtless being is attained by everyone, the return to thoughtless being by a very few.

Unfortunately, after Henry throws an errant ball that injures his friend and roommate, Owen, he begins second guessing himself, double-clutching throws.  Each error brings on even more self-doubt, until it seems impossible to break the cycle.  Henry then falls into a downward spiral.  If he no longer can see himself as the best shortstop he can be, then what is he?  Who is he?  Henry = Shortstop = Henry  is no longer a valid equation and he has nothing to replace that identity.  Having seen this happen to loved ones in real life – the loss of a career leading to a loss of identity – I found his ensuing depression heartbreaking and believable.

Debut Novels

We’ve read a surprising number of debut novels in this reading challenge, which should be heartening to any wanna be author – you too can hit a home run with your first novel and reach beyond the outfield fence – in this case, the New York Times Bestseller List.  All it takes is a great set of characters, a mix of  human emotions (love, betrayal, fear of growing old), and a relatable setting, such as the backdrop of a college baseball diamond (or a race track {The Art of Racing} or a waterfront condo in Chicago {The Silent Wife} or a town like Mill River Vermont {The Mill River Recluse}).  Isn’t that encouraging?

What’s most encouraging to me as a reader is that I finally really enjoyed a Literary Fiction novel from this challenge.  I hope that, as we get closer and closer to the best books at the end of this list, that there will be more glittering diamonds like The Art of Fielding.

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? 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 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Let’s look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer from a reader’s perspective.

For a summary of Extremely Loud, please check out its introductory post.

This post contains spoilers.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

In 2016 I heard a radio interview of Jonathan Safran Foer, who was promoting his newly released book, Here I Am. The interview was interesting enough that I added Here I Am to my “must read” list.  This past December I noticed the book on the “new releases” shelf at my local library, so I brought it home, only to discover that it was written by the same author as our next book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  How serendipitous, I thought.  Not wanting to confuse myself by reading two books by the same author at the same time, I set aside Here I Am to read later and began reading our book selection.

I really wanted to love this book.  I liked the main character, Oskar.  I enjoyed his story line, his search for his lost father in New York City, even though I didn’t find it very believable that Oskar’s mother would allow him to roam NYC on his own.  After all, he is only nine.  But, for the sake of the story, I was willing to suspend that disbelief and keep reading.  As Roberta revealed in her Writer’s Review, it turns out that Oskar’s mom does know what he is doing and has surreptitiously arranged it so that Oskar is safe the whole time.  Both Oskar and the reader have been played.

Visual Cleverness

Roberta also mentioned the “clever” ways that Foer plays with the text and design throughout the book.  Oskar’s sections have their own idiosyncrasies, but the chapters that tell the stories of his grandmother and grandfather really go over the top, to the point where I found them almost unintelligible.  I’m sure the author had some lofty goals, some way these visual cues would lead us to a deeper understanding of the story, but they were completely lost on me.  I came away with only a vague understanding of his grandparent’s and their relationship, and mostly felt frustrated and cheated.

As an example, here’s a section from one of Oskar’s grandfather’s chapters (Why I’m Not Where You Are 5/21/63):

Jonathan-Safran-Foer

The entire chapter runs on this way, with no paragraph breaks and very few periods to mark the end of sentences.  I cringed every time I had to read the grandfather sections.

When I first finished reading Extremely Loud last week, I came away with a feeling of actually liking the book.  I felt it was the first Literary Fiction novel we’ve read in this challenge where I liked the story line, liked the characters, liked the outcome.  Now, a week later, I realize that that was all an illusion.  The story quickly faded in my mind and left me with more questions than answers.

I have not seen the movie that was made from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I have to wonder how the producers and screenwriters handled all these text and design “innovations” on the big screen.  Would I perhaps understand the story better by seeing the movie?

The Importance of Genre

Unfortunately, now I likely will not read Here I Am.  If Extremely Loud is indicative of this author’s writing style, I don’t need to waste more of my precious reading time.  And once again, I’m reminded of the importance of genre.  A bestseller list encompasses so many genres that one individual is never going to like every book on that list, no matter how popular it was to other readers.  Hopefully somewhere in this Reading Challenge I’ll find a Literary Fiction novel that I really and truly enjoy.

Have you read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? 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 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he messes up an easy throw which leads to disaster, and the lives of those around him are changed. With his future in jeopardy, can Henry overcome his crippling self doubt?

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? 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 Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? 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 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Writer’s Review

Let’s take a look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he finds a key hidden in his father’s closet, he thinks it is part of a scavenger hunt game he and his dad played. This impels Oskar to go on a quest to find the lock that the key fits.

Genre

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a work of literary fiction.

Discussion

Normally I would go into the characters and setting of the book, but for this novel I’m going to take a different tack and jump right into discussion.

In the end of the book Oskar discovers the reason that his mother has allowed him to wander around the city without asking where he was going or even seeming to care about what he was doing was because she knew exactly what he was up to all along. She had talked to everyone he went to visit before Oskar arrived. She made sure he was safe by acting behind the scenes. His journey was an illusion orchestrated by his mom who assumed the role of protector and also puppet master.

Oh, the irony. As a reader, I felt every bit as manipulated by the author as Oskar was by his mother. I was supposed to admire the clever way Foer played with the text and design. My, pages 121-123 are blank. Isn’t that such a statement? So bold.

Pages 208- 216 are covered with red editor’s marks. (Well, sort of. They aren’t the marks a copy editor would use.) “How ingenious,” the reader is supposed to say. How innovative.

 

Extremely Loud

Why do I feel manipulated?

As a writer, the question becomes why does this work of fiction leave me annoyed whereas another novel, equally a work of complete fiction, can draw me in and make me completely forget the world I’m in for hours?

I’m not saying I have this all figured out by any means, but at least part of it is ego. In this novel Jonathan Safran Foer’s ego is everywhere. He wants you to admire his brilliant writing, not enjoy it. The author uses his gifts — and he is very talented — to show off, whereas another equally talented writer would step back and let the characters tell the story. You’ve probably noticed this with actors, too. Some charismatic actors always steal the show by being themselves regardless of the role. Do you ever forget that it’s Bruce Willis or Will Smith on the screen? Other sublimely gifted actors inhabit their characters so fully that the members of the audience suspend disbelief. They believe they are watching real people for the time the characters are on the screen.

The way Foer defies writing convention so blatantly is also part of it. My life is busy and I have limited time to read. As a reader, I don’t want to spend my precious hours trying to figure out the odd grammar and syntax. Instead, I want to read. I want the words to disappear and the images to roll through my head like a movie.

Every novel we’ve read for this challenge has taught me something that I hope will make me a better writer. The message I learned from this one is to be kind to your reader. Leave your ego at the door.

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 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Number 52. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he finds a key, he thinks it is part of a scavenger hunt game he and his dad played, so Oskar goes on a quest to find out what it fits.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a work of literary fiction.

 

Have you read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? 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 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? 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 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review of Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

As we pick back up our Bestsellers List reading challenge, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire is the first book to review.  For a summary of Beautiful Disaster, please check out its introductory post.

This post might contain spoilers.

Beautiful Disaster* by Jamie McGuire

It’s All In The Title

“Beautiful Disaster” is the perfect title for this Bad-Boy romance.  It is obvious that Abby & Travis have an immediate connection the very first time they meet.  Whether they can overcome their pasts and find their happily-ever-after future is what compels the reader to keep reading to the end of the book.

As Roberta mentioned in her Writer’s Review, within the first few pages it felt like I was back reading Fifty Shades of Grey, only with better language and a slightly more believable situation.  I say “slightly” because there were many aspects of this story I didn’t buy into – Abby and Travis remaining celibate while sleeping in the same bed for a month and Travis not getting hauled off to jail the second or third (or fourth) time he punched some random guy in the face are two prime examples. Of the two, Beautiful Disaster was better written, but both novels moved along quickly with the same roller coaster plot line dynamic.

Publishing Similarities

It’s interesting to note that both Beautiful Disaster and Fifty Shades of Grey were originally self-published in 2011, both were acquired by established publishing firms in 2012, and both became bestsellers.  Beautiful Disaster didn’t have quite the massive success that Fifty Shades of Grey experienced, but I’d say a book that has been translated into over fifty languages worldwide didn’t do too badly.

Beautiful Disaster is told from Abby’s point of view, while the second book in the series, Walking Disaster, is the same story told from Travis’ point of view.  I’ve noticed that this is a common way for self-published authors to sell more ebooks.  McGuire concluded the series with a novella about Travis & Abby’s wedding, titled – are you ready? – “A Beautiful Wedding.

A Compulsive Read?

It’s always interesting to read the reviews that readers leave on Amazon and Goodreads.  Those readers who were able to overcome the co-dependency and borderline abusive / stalker aspects of Travis and Abby’s relationship stated that  Beautiful Disaster was a “page turner,” a “fun story,” and “a powerful love story.”  Unfortunately for me, I found it was none of these.  I couldn’t overcome my dislike of the negative aspects of their relationship.  And then, on page 355, there was one more downward spiral, one more massive misunderstanding between Abby and Travis, and that was the last straw for me.  From then on, I skimmed pages in an effort to finish the book.  I ceased caring if they ever worked things out and made it to their happily-ever-after future.

We’ve read some romances in this challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst was so good that I immediately read the other two books in that series.  Needless to say, I won’t be looking for rest of this “Disaster” series.

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Have you written about Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
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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. 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 52. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005) – Discussion begins December 17, 2018
Literary Fiction

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