Tag: The Bestseller Code 100 (page 1 of 17)

#BestsellerCode100: The Hit By David Baldacci

Time to discuss a novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list,

The Hit* by David Baldacci

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Hit is the second title in the Will Robie thriller series.

Summary: When a fellow CIA assassin Jessica Reel starts killing their colleagues, Will Robie accepts the task of hunting her down. Soon the clues aren’t adding up, and Robie must figure out who is telling the truth before he becomes the next target.

Review:

Right at the beginning we realize this novel is going to be a roller coaster ride because Baldacci sets up expectations that one thing is about to happen when “Bam!” there’s a big surprise. The plot continues to twist and turn throughout the book, until it is unexpected when things don’t twist.

Overall, it was a good read except for the very end, which  in my opinion was too forced. I won’t go into details, but it felt tacked on.

Notes:

In The Bestseller Code, the authors suggest that emotional beats are one characteristic of bestselling novels (like for example, in Fifty Shades of Gray). In this novel, however, the characters have the emotionalism of a sharks hunting prey. They are cold and calculating, and bury their emotions.

So, how did it make the list? It turns out that although the emotions don’t bounce up and down like a dribbling basketball, the pacing does. In a typical chapter there is a short burst of violent action with tight, terse pacing, then the rest of the chapter involves the character reflecting on what happened and what is going to occur next. It seems likely the computer algorithm picked up the action-reflection-action-reflection pattern.

The point of view also jumped between characters from chapter to chapter, but not as regularly or evenly as the pacing. Plus, frankly, the voices weren’t that different.  After all, the two main characters were both CIA assassins and it is their similarities that makes the story compelling;  two equals going head to head.

Bottom Line:

If you are a writer, check out how David Baldacci handles his characters’ reflections. They are undoubtedly  part of what makes this novel a bestseller.

Have you read The Hit by David Baldacci? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Public domain photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com

#BookBeginnings The Hit by David Baldacci

Today we have one of the novels from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Hit by David Baldacci for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Baldacci

The Hit* by David Baldacci

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Hit is the second title in the Will Robie thriller series.

Summary:  When a fellow CIA assassin Jessica Reel starts killing their colleagues, Will Robie  accepts the task of hunting her down. Soon the clues aren’t adding up, and Robie must figure out who is telling the truth before he becomes the next target.

First Sentence:

Feeling energized by the death that was about to happen, Doug Jacobs adjusted his headset and brightened his computer screen.

Discussion:

Doesn’t that first line make you want to keep reading?

I’ve read far enough to know that what happens next is not expected.

Last week’s novel, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich was on the same list of 100 bestsellers, but the two novels couldn’t be more different in voice.  Twelve Sharp was hot and emotional.  This one is cold, calculating, and denies emotions.  What a contrast.

Have you read any of David Baldacci’s thrillers ?

#BookBeginnings Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Today we have one of the novels from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Evanovich

Twelve Sharp*by Janet Evanovich

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Twelve Sharp is number twelve in the long-running Stephanie Plum series. Each new novel features the series number in the title, starting with One for the MoneyTwisted Twenty-Six is the most recent.

Summary:  Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum spends her days trying to outwit criminals who have skipped bail plus figuring out what she should do about the two guys she’s attracted to, police detective Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger. When a crazy woman shows up and says she is Ranger’s wife, it should make her decision easier, but soon it is evident things just got way more complicated.

First Sentences:

When I was twelve years old I accidentally substituted salt for sugar in a cake recipe. I baked a cake, iced the cake, and served it up. It looked like a cake, but as soon as you cut into it and took a taste, you knew something was going on. People are like that, too.

Discussion:

Okay, the writer-geek in me adores that Evanovich worked the word “twelve “into her first sentence. Isn’t that clever?

Previously I have read maybe the first five of this series, so when Twelve Sharp showed up on The Bestseller Code list of 100 best books (picked by a computer algorithm) I knew I wanted to read it.

Wow. I had forgotten who much I loved Evanovich’s snarky humor and her awesome use of the “will they or won’t they?” trope. I’m such a sucker for that.

In case you were wondering, Twelve Sharp works well as a stand alone because she takes time to introduce everything and everyone you need to know to enjoy it.

Have you read any of the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich?

#BookBeginnings Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Today we’re getting ready to start the next novel in The Bestseller Code Challenge ListMaine by J. Courtney Sullivan, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Courtney Sullivan

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Four Kelleher women gather their families at their summer beach house in Maine, each bringing their own secrets and issues.

Genre:  Domestic fiction

First Sentence:

Alice decided to take a break from packing. She lit a cigarette, leaning back in one of the wicker chairs that were always slightly damp from the sea breeze.

Discussion:

Already I wonder why she’s packing up the summer home before anyone else arrives.

Although this looks like a summertime beach read, it also might be a great way to escape from the February blah weather.

What do you think? Have you read Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan? Would you like to read it?

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. 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 46. Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) – Discussion begins March 11, 2019
Literary Fiction

#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:

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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 47. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011) – Discussion begins February 25, 2019
Domestic Fiction

#BookBeginnings The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Today we’re starting the next novel in The Bestseller Code Challenge List, The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When four men on horseback dressed as Templar knights steal rare artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, archaeologist Tess Chaykin, who witnessed the theft,  and FBI agent Sean Reilly team up to investigate.

This novel is a historical thriller of sorts. Some say it is similar to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, an author who also has a book on the challenge list.

First Sentence of Prologue:

The Holy Land is lost.

And so starts the prologue, set in Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1291.

First Sentence, Chapter 1:

At first, no one noticed the four horsemen as they emerged out of the darkness of Central Park.

The setting in Chapter one is modern day (for a book published in 2005) New York City.

I’m actually about half way through and I’m enjoying the action. It seems like the plot is a bit less convoluted than The DaVinci Code, but the author hasn’t revealed everything yet.

What do you think? Have you read this? Ever read The DaVinci Code?  How do you think they compare?

 

Have you read The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury? 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 47. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011) – Discussion begins February 25, 2019
Domestic Fiction

#BookBeginnings The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Today we’re getting ready to start the next novel in The Bestseller Code Challenge ListThe Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

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.

First Sentence:

Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.

Discussion:

I missed reading this when it first came out because I knew I’d be disappointed because nothing could match the Harry Potter books and my expectations were too high. Now, enough time has probably passed that I can give it a fairer reading. Plus, I did like the first three of Rowling’s mysteries.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What do you think?

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Karen and I have been reading through the 100 novel challenge list and doing formal reviews of each novels, which is time consuming and no one reads them. So instead, we invite you to take part in our casual discussions on facebook. If we get enough interest, we’ll post a discussion summary here on the blog.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling? 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 48. The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury (2005) – Discussion begins February 11, 2019
Mystery/suspense

#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

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