Author: Roberta (Page 1 of 45)

#BookBeginnings The Woman in the Library

Today I have The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill for Book Beginnings on Fridays, which ironically I picked up at the library.

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!

 

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The Woman in the Library* by Sulari Gentill

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Summary:   The Woman in the Library  is a complex story told in the form of metafiction.

First Sentence:

Dear Hannah,

What are you writing?

I expect you’ve started something new by now.

The Woman in the Library starts with a letter that is part of an ongoing correspondence between two writers, from Leo who is in Boston to Hannah who lives in Australia.

Chapter One is the beginning of Hannah’s manuscript, a novel within a novel.

Writing in the Boston Public Library had been a mistake. It was too magnificent.

The narrator is a young Australian in Boston for a writing program. She meets three others under strange circumstances at in the Reading Room at the Boston Public Library.  When a woman is killed at the library, they are drawn into the mystery.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Detective Kelly asks us to come into the station to give our statements.

This is from Hannah’s novel. As you can see, it is written in the present tense.

Notes:

At first I was a bit confused about what was going on with the alternating letters and manuscript, but by the end of Chapter One I was all in.  This book is a wry bit of metafiction that will keep readers highly entertained, particularly readers who are also writers.

To me, the chapters which were supposed to be the “manuscript” seemed the most real. It was easy to get caught up in the story and the characters, more so than the “letters”.

The Woman in the Library offers a lot to think about on many levels.

What do you think? Do you enjoy metafiction? Have you read a novel by Sulari Gentill?

#BookBeginnings Razorblade Tears

 

I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears, so I thought I’d share it 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!

 

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Razorblade Tears*by S.A. Cosby

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Summary:  When someone murders Isiah Randolph and his husband Derek Lee, their fathers Ike and Buddy join forces to find out who killed them. Both ex-cons, Ike and Buddy must overcome their prejudices about not only their sons, but also each other in a quest for revenge and possibly redemption.

First Sentence:

Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.

Discussion:

Wow, that first paragraph grabbed me and I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the bottom of the page.

I’ve been holding off reading this book because it contains violence, perhaps more violence than my normal reading comfort zone. I wasn’t the only one with concerns. There’s a question on GoodReads, about the level of violence, too.  Everyone says yes, there’s graphic violence, but thus far the consensus is that it’s a good book anyway. I’m beginning to see what they mean after only reading the first page.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Essential Events Bakery was housed in a cavernous building with high ceilings and multiple skylights tinted a light green…Ike could taste sugar in the air and smell bread baking.

Cosby sneaks some beautiful writing in between the action scenes.

Maybe I will concentrate on those and skim the gory bits

What do you think?  Have you ever skimmed the gory parts of a novel that you liked otherwise?

#BookBeginnings Exit Strategy by @LindaLRichards

Today I’m reading Exit Strategy by Linda L. Richards 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!

 

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Exit Strategy* by Linda L. Richards

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

This novel is a sequel to Endings. It just came out this week.

Summary:   A killer for hire is rattled by her most recent hit, and therefore her handler assigns her to do something new. Her job is to protect Virginia Martin, who is about to change the world with an invention that turns garbage into energy.  Can she  make the transition from being a hitwoman to being a bodyguard?

First Sentence:

He proves to be a genial companion. I never doubted that he would.

Discussion:

The poor guy is on a date with a killer for hire? Uh oh. I have a feeling he’s in real trouble.

The book is written in first person –from the point of view of the hitwoman– and present tense. By in large the sentences are short and packed with action verbs. Those choices make it a compelling book to read.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

When I leave the salon, I am beautiful. I can feel it. My hair bounces around me …I feel my hair springing around me as I walk out of the salon and all I want to do is cry, reminded of what was long lost.

 

What an abrupt change in her mood.  I’m not sure what is going on. Perhaps I should have started with the first novel in the series.

After reading:

In many thrillers, the protagonist has a flat character arc, that is, his or her job is the change the world rather than being changed by it. In those kind of books, it is easier to simply pick them up in any order. Lee Child’s Reacher series is a prime example.

In Exit Strategy, the protagonist is definitely on a journey that is changing her.  Because that journey started in the first book of the series, Endings, I recommend reading it first.

What do you think? Have you read a novel by Linda L. Richards?

#BookBeginnings Scot Free by Catriona McPherson

This week I’m reading Scot Free by Catriona McPherson 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!

 

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Scot Free* by Catriona McPherson

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Summary:  In the first novel  in the Last Ditch Mystery series, marriage counselor Lexy Campbell had fallen in love with a dentist and moved from her native Scotland to California. After discovering her husband’s true motivations, she divorces him and is about to fly back to Scotland when she’s embroiled in the bizarre death of one of her clients and has to stay longer than expected. Can she solve the murder so she can get on with her life?

First Sentence:

Outside my windows, mortars fired rockets into the darkness and the night was rent by the crack of gunpowder and the screams of children.

Discussion:

Let’s just say the author is playing with us a bit.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

A tall, slim, kind of catalogue-modelly man in overstarched casuals came out and stood frowning on the doorstep. “Call me Bang-Bang,” he said. His shirtsleeves and chinos crackled as he moved towards me and shook my hand.

Although it falls into the cozy-mystery genre, this series has an edgier feel than most cozies.

Like her protagonist, author Catriona McPherson moved from Scotland to Davis, California to be with her husband. The novel is full of wry humor as she deals with the mistakes and mishaps that occur when two cultures collide.

What do you think? Have you read any novels by Catriona McPherson? Do you like humorous cozy mysteries?

#BookBeginnings Closed Circles

Have you ever read a novel because you liked the TV show or movie? That’s why I picked the Sandhamn Murders series by Viveca Sten 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!

 

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Closed Circles by Viveca Sten and translated by Laura A. Wideburg

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Summary:  When Oscar Juliander, lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club, is killed during a regatta, police detective Thomas Andreasson and his childhood friend lawyer Nora Linde  investigate.  The going gets tough when the rich and powerful close ranks.

First Sentence:

The woman’s voice slowly counted down over Channel 16 on the marine radio: “Ten, nine, eight…”

Discussion: 

As with many mystery novels, chapter one starts with the murder scene. The victim is killed during the beginning of the yacht race.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

This special friendship with Nora had existed for a long time. [His ex-wife] Pernilla had never questioned it, unlike Nora’s husband, Henrik.

These are police detective Thomas Andreasson’s thoughts.  You can read different meanings into this sentence. Was Pernilla — Thomas’s ex-wife — more mature and secure, which is why she wasn’t jealous of her husband’s childhood friend? Or did she not care as much as Henrik? We learn more about Nora and Henrik’s relationship before the end of the book and things become much clearer.

I’ve already read Still Waters, which is the first in the series. The layout is unique because the sections from Nora’s point of view are so different in pacing. Her story line reads like domestic fiction. The sections that feature Thomas are fairly straightforward police procedural. The combination of the two works better than you might think. It is actually quite compelling.

There are two television series based on the novels, a Swedish television series named Sandhamn Murders and a Polish version, set in Poland with Polish actors called The Crime (Viveca’s website). Both television series paralleled the story line, but changed enough plot points so there weren’t too many spoilers.  For example, in Closed Circles the victim was killed during a horse race instead of a yacht race.

Still Waters by Viveca Sten and translated by Marlaine Delargy


Have you read any mysteries by Viveca Sten? Have you seen either television series?  Do you think you would like to?

#BookBeginnings #mystery The Man Who Died Twice

 

I found the first novel delightful, so I can’t wait to read The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman 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!

 

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Summary:  Amateur sleuths Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim return in this sequel to the hugely popular novel, The Thursday Murder Club. This time Elizabeth’s ex-husband arrives on the scene with a wild tale about being accused to stealing diamonds from some ruthless criminals.  Before long people are found murdered. It is up to the retired foursome to put things right.

First Sentence:

Sylvia Finch wonders how much longer she can do this. One foot in front of the other, her suede shoes darkening in the autumn puddles.

Death hangs about her like a fine mist.

Discussion:

It’s hard to define this first page. It is set apart with only a few lines. It feels like a prologue, but isn’t labeled as a prologue. None of the main characters are in it. I guess we’ll have to see how it fits.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“So you need us to look out for him?” asks Joyce. “Like bodyguards?”

“Hardly bodyguards, Joyce,” says Elizabeth.

“We’re guarding his body,” says Ron.

“All right, bodyguards then, Ron, as you wish.”

I love how you can see differences between the characters even in this short piece of dialogue, complete with banter.

Also, it is written in present tense. Present tense gives a sense of immediacy, but keeping the verb tenses consistent can be tricky indeed.

The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery*by Richard Osman

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The previous novel:
The Thursday Murder Club: A Novel by Richard Osman

 

 

Have you read any of the Thursday Murder Club mysteries? What do you think?

#BookBeginnings One Step Too Far #Mystery

Let’s take a look at the brand new mystery One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner 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!

 

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One Step Too Far* by Lisa Gardner

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

 

Summary:  Frankie Elkin is a regular woman with one superpower:  she can find people who are missing. In this case, she joins a party looking for a young man who disappeared in the wilderness five years before. They are going to hike deep into the forest to one spot that has never been searched because it so remote. A novice to hiking and camping, Frankie has to be careful or she might just be the one who ends up missing .

Note:  Before She Disappeared is the first in this series (previous post).

First Sentence:

The first three men came stumbling into town shortly after ten A.M., babbling of dark shapes and eerie screams and their missing buddy Scott and their other buddy Tim, who set out from their campsite before dawn to get help.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“Your idea of self-defense in an urban environment is a whistle? Are you trying to die?”

 

The first part, which happened five years prior, was in past tense. This part, with Frankie as the narrator, is in present tense.

I follow Lisa Gardner on Instagram and she spends a lot of time hiking. Her first hand experience gives a strong sense of reality to the story.

What do you think? Do you like books written in the present tense? Are you a fan of Lisa Gardner?

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

 

With the huge popularity of true crime — particularly true crime podcasts– it isn’t surprising that authors would want to explore the genre in their fiction.  For example, I already wrote about how a true crime podcast drives the action in the novel Conviction by Denise Mina (previous post). Today let’s take a look at a novel that takes things a step further, True Crime Story:  What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing? by Joseph Knox. The paperback is coming out on December 7, 2021.

The first chapter starts with a black and white photograph of a young woman and the words:

In the early hours of Saturday, December 17, 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old University of Manchester student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years later writer Evelyn Mitchell becomes interested in “What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing?” and starts investigating Zoe’s disappearance.  What she discovers unfolds through a series of interviews with the Zoe’s friends and relatives, plus emails, police reports, letters, etc.

Although the central question of what happened to Zoe is a compelling one, readers might find other questions on their minds, such as, “What is the author up to?”

Fiction or Nonfiction?

For a reader who picks up the novel cold, whether this is really true crime (nonfiction) is unclear.  Part of the confusion occurs because the author, Joseph Knox, inserts himself as a character, an author who helps Evelyn with her investigation and her writing. But all may not be as it seems. On the first page is a note from the publisher for the “amended second edition.” It implies Knox is not reliable and there has been a scandal, although the details are muddy.

It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that this novel is entirely fiction impersonating nonfiction. Even the note from the publisher is fiction.

Why did the author choose to create a fictional true crime novel? Perhaps Knox gives the answer on page 377 in the paperback version:

At such times, I remember why fiction is so often preferable to fact.

Homage to True Crime or Satire?

Joseph Knox put an incredible amount of work into this novel. He created interviews with multiple characters plus emails, plus a subplot of the interaction between the character Joseph Knox and Evelyn, the writer.  With the details and amount of time he put into it, one might guess the novel is a homage to the genre. However, an homage should lift up the genre, to show it at its finest, and that’s not the case. He sticks to the dry style of straightforward nonfiction.

If you look up “mimic” in the thesaurus, you will also find the words lampoon, parody, spoof. By mimicking true crime, Knox is likely poking fun at it. But again, it isn’t entirely clear. If that is the case, you’d expect more tongue-in-cheek, more tearing down of the genre, more over-the-top bits. If the intention is pure satire, then it is subtle enough that at least some readers missed it, a fact that becomes obvious when reading reviews.

Perhaps The Times has come the closest with the suggestion Knox both celebrates and satirizes the genre.

Conclusions

What the novel does really well is explore how authors investigating a crime — getting caught up in it — can color not only what they write, but also what happens. In this case Evelyn actually causes the ending. She is an active part of the story. On the other hand, the Joseph Knox character uses his position to conceal his own involvement in a death. All in all it becomes metafiction at its weirdest and best.

How you respond to this novel will depend on you and your expectations. If you are looking for something entirely new and different, if you really like fiction, then this is the book for you. You will be one of those many readers who give it 4 and 5 star reviews.

On the other hand, if you are a diehard fan of true crime and like your nonfiction unadulterated, then you might wonder why Joseph Knox didn’t put all his time and considerable talent into writing a novel that suspends disbelief, rather one than causes it.

Overall, I recommend giving True Crime Story a chance because if nothing else, it raises questions that will likely stick with you long after you read it. Isn’t that the best kind of novel?

True Crime Story:  What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing? by Joseph Knox


Disclosure: Book reviewed was an Advance Reader’s Edition. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 

#BookBeginnings Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R Rendon

 

Looking forward to reading Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon 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!

 

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Girl Gone Missing* by Marcie R. Rendon

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Nineteen-year-old Cash Blackbear goes to Moorhead State college during the day and drives trucks delivering crops at night. She has little time to connect with classmates. That is, until she begins dreaming that the blonde girls who have recently gone missing from campus. Her dreams show they are trapped and trying to escape. What is going on? Can she help them?

First Sentence:

Cash pulled herself up and out of her bedroom window. Her heart beat in her ears and she shivered uncontrollably. She took off running barefoot, zig-zagging across the damp ground.

 

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

The truckload of beets weighed a lot more than corn or wheat, probably because the beetroots were water dense. They also tended to have field dirt clinging to them even though the newer machines were better at cleaning the large clumps off the root before they were ever loaded on the trucks.

It was hard to find a place to start and stop the quotes. In the sections I have read so far, the words flow like water. They keep going, moving forward, tumbling to the next and to the next and to the next, pulling you right along like you are being swept along. It is hard to put down.

Neither of the quotes show you Cash, an Anishinabe woman who is smart and mature beyond her years. This is the second in a series. The first was Murder on the Red River, which I have not read.

What do you think?  Are you in the mood for an amateur sleuth mystery?

#amwriting Five Writing Craft Books for Your Favorite Writer

Let’s take a look at five books about writing, any one of which may be perfect for your favorite writer.

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

1. On Writing by Stephen King (2000)

Stephen King is a consummate storyteller and it shows throughout this book. Part memoir, part how-to manual, I came away with some treasures about writing. He is a huge proponent of reading as a way to inform your writing. He talks a lot about the “writer’s toolbox,” which are the skills you need to develop in order to write, like expanding your vocabulary and improving your grammar. He is also very candid about how some of his more famous books came together and how some almost didn’t.

Favorite quote:

If there is one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it’s that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects.

Stephen King probably couldn’t have written a straight how-to manual without including the memoir portions because writing is so much a part of his identity. That said, he gives very practical advice.

2. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

This slim volume is a compilation of essays Annie Dillard published about writing over the years. She has had a rich writing life. She has a powerful, commanding voice and she has written some amazing books.

Rather than detailed how-to, the sections are about the writing process and what price tag it might have. It’s more about whether or not to give writing a try.

It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.

She devotes a good number of pages in the book to the physical places where where she has written, such as in a college library after hours, a pine shed in Cape Cod, or a cabin on an island in the Puget Sound. What writer wouldn’t like to get away from it all like that? How many of us can actually achieve it?

Tips more toward intimidating than inspiring at times.

3. This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley


If you are looking for wise, warm, and clear advice on how to get the writing work done — especially for your first novel — this is the book for you.

The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course…It’s not like a highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating, discovering.

Walter Mosley covers the key points of writing a novel — such as which point of view to choose — very concisely. He also examines the revision process.

His main advice is to read, particularly poetry, and also to write every single day until you have a novel.  Reading this book just might inspire you to do that.

Best for the first time author who is eager to get started.

4. Write Away:  One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is a renowned author of mystery novels. Her ideas and pointers are at a deeper level than some of the others and this book might be better for someone who has some writing experience. That said, she has some wonderful suggestions.

  1. She recommends keeping a writing journal about writing your novel. She’s not the first author I’ve heard suggest this, but she gives actual quotes for her journals at the beginning of each section. Seeing how it works has inspired me to start my own writing journal and I’m finding it highly beneficial. I use it to keep focused, keep organized, and it also helps me to see the progress I’m making. Try it!
  2. George gives many concrete examples of her various points. For example, when she proposes getting ideas for novels from challenges, she gives two examples of novels she wrote when other authors said that format was too hard to pull off, that it couldn’t be done.

In any case, a great reference that you will likely return to again and again.


Note:  authors don’t always agree on all points. For example, Walter Mosley says “dialogue is action.” Elizabeth George writes that “dialogue is character.”

5. How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook by Mystery Writers of America edited by Lee Child and Laurie R King

This is a collection of essays and short pieces by famous mystery and thriller authors about writing in their genre. It is filled with excellent advice, each contribution is a polished gem. Brilliant!

On the other hand, when you have a basket full of colorful gems, it isn’t easy to pick one or two to use. How to Write a Mystery might work best once you have a first draft and you have concrete questions. That way you’ll know what gems work best for you.

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