This past weekend, I had a reading weekend, which invariably spilled over into the last couple of days:
I also had two books in other formats - Brenda Novak's When We Touch novella as a printed pdf, and the NetGalley ARC of Cynthia Voigt's Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things.
Without further ado, reviews!:
A few months ago I started working my way through all E. L. Konigsburg books I hadn't read yet. I think I only have two or three left to go!
As is the case with all her books, this one tackled a difficult theme and didn't sugar coat its language. I wonder what would happen if any other author tried to write a story with such straightforward dialogue and uneasy resolutions today. In a nutshell, the story is about a young girl who goes to live with her aunt in Florida for the summer and becomes embroiled in a town battle over free speech, freedom of expression (basically, whether anyone can choose to wear a t-back/thong bathing suit in public and not just on the beach), and freedom to NOT speak, or to choose another side altogether. I'd like to be able to write this succinctly on such important topics.
I'm really liking Brenda Novak's Whiskey Creek series! When We Touch is the first one, I think, and I should have read it before reading all the others because it explains a lot of the side-references to the characters in this story made by characters in the later ones. If you haven't gotten into the series yet, this is a quick read and a great introduction!
Medeia, I got the ARC of Cynthia Voigt's latest book through NetGalley. I miss Voigt! Tree by Leaf was the first book of hers that I read, many years ago. I remember I liked the writing a lot, but was kind of confused by the story. I was eleven! I think it's time for a reread.
As for Mister Max, I used to love this kind of book when I was younger, and my preferences haven't changed! The convoluted descriptions of places and people, the air of mystery, the delightful tramping back and forth through city streets and in and out of parks and bakeries and manor houses, the gradual unfolding of secrets, I love all of it. Very excited to know that this is the first of a trilogy.
Aside: It's also the second ever book I've read in e-format, this time on the iPad. Still not a fan, especially of having to watch where I put my fingers in case I accidentally swipe to the next page, of trying to figure out this "location" business (a few times I came back to the story and the chapter started on the left hand side where before it had been on the right, and I hadn't changed the font size! At least a real book stays put and doesn't leap around!), or of adjusting the light depending on whether I was in bed, in the living room, or standing in full sun at the train station.
Now for the two mysteries:
Barbara Rogan has a new book out!
"A Dangerous Fiction is a romp of a publishing mystery that introduces Jo Donovan, literary agent-cum-detective.As usually happens, this blurb barely scratches the surface of what the book is really about. There's a lot in here on relationships, finding meaning in life and work, and creating stories - not just stories fashioned by writers, but the stories that everyone tells about their pasts. Without giving away too much, I liked the way the book ended with a hope-for-the-future outlook (even with someone from her past), as Jo finally turned away from musing on past events and people (some more lamented than others). Happy to hear there will be a sequel!
Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. From the backwoods of Appalachia, she forged a hard path to life among the literati in New York City. At thirty-five, she's the widow of the renowned author Hugo Donovan and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. Jo is living the life she dreamed of but it's all about to fall apart.
When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of Hugo Donovan is in the works and the author's digging threatens to destroy the foundations of Jo's carefully constructed life. As the web of suspicion grows wider and her stalker ups the ante, she's persuaded by her client and friend-FBI profiler-turned-bestselling-thriller writer-to go to the police. There Jo finds herself face-to-face with an old flame: the handsome Tommy Cullen, now NYPD detective; and suddenly life gets even more complicated."
I read Gone Girl mostly because of the look my mother-in-law and sister-in-law gave me when I asked to borrow it. Now, if anyone asks me, I get a similar sour look on my face. I went into all my reasons for not liking Gone Girl over on the Forum. But a few months on from that experience, I have a solution!:
If you'd like to read a thrilling unreliable-narrator mystery, with taut writing, pitch-perfect dialogue, intriguing nuances, no cop-out ending, and a sprinkle of real romance, then read A Dangerous Fiction!
After that I read The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith.
I love this author's characterisation. The mystery was a satisfying one too. I also quite liked the way the final revelation was handled - not the detective expounding to a group, a la Poirot; not the criminal confessing his dastardly methods; and not a third person summary. Instead, the detective told the criminal exactly what he had done and how he had done it, all in dialogue. "You took... you then went... you hid..." Interesting!
As with Rogan's book, I thought I knew the murderer's identity, but was pleasantly and creepily surprised to discover how wrong I was. Some people criticise this author for an overuse of adverbs but it never seems to bother me, in this author's books at least.
Okay, okay, everyone knows by now that "this author" is none other than J. K. Rowling. Goodreads held a contest a little while ago where they chose one fan question out of many and Rowling answered it at length. Here's the beginning of her answer:
Read the rest on Goodreads.
I also finished my reread of the sixth book in the History of Middle Earth series, and started the seventh. These two volumes cover Tolkien's drafts, notes, maps, and sketches during the initial years of writing The Lord of the Rings. Fascinating stuff. It's amazing how many name changes and character development ideas he went through (Aragorn as a hobbit called Trotter with wooden shoes!), how long it took him to work through certain ideas (Treebeard as a captor or friend), and how little time he had to write when he actually sat down to do so (especially after the War started). Gives me hope for my own stories!
In the process, I've been keeping an eye out for any notes on the eagle question in The Lord of the Rings. I haven't - yet - come across any mention of the Eagles in the drafts for The Council of Elrond chapter, but I have thought of something else: it's not just a matter of reaching the borders of Mordor (somehow undetected) and then summoning the Eagles to carry Frodo to Mt. Doom.
The Eagles wouldn't be mentioned at the Council because, taking Rivendell as the starting point - as the Company had to do - there is no way the Eagles could or would traverse all the way from there to Mt. Doom: they would treat the ring as Bombadil might if they were asked to carry it or, if they were simply carrying Frodo carrying the Ring, they'd be spotted long before reaching the borders of Mordor. Basically, the Eagles could not be asked or even considered for the same reason that "escaping" to the West with the Ring is so quickly dismissed - Sauron will be watching for such a simple/obvious action. It's only through stealth, and taking "the path of folly" that there is any hope. And, of course, given how the story progresses, Frodo and Sam (and Gollum) are alone on the borders, and cannot themselves summon the Eagles. By the time Faramir has a chance to even mention the matter to Gandalf, Frodo and Sam are beyond aid of that sort.
But I digress.
Finally, out of all the books in that pile, I started rereading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
He's in Montreal tonight (squee!)! And by the way, if you're looking for a lovely board book for a young reader, I'd highly recommend Gaiman's The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish.
If all those books aren't inspiring enough for us insecure writers (today is IWSG day!), then here's an award for you all that I picked up from Lara!:
As for ROW80... I've sent off Druid's Moon and the short story, "Where There's Life". Wish me luck!
Now I'm trying to decide - type up a completed novel, or start drafting a brand new one? I might also work on a mission statement. Susan Kaye Quinn's got some great tips for why authors need one and how to craft yours.
Two of my openings were featured on editor Lynnette Labelle's Are You Hooked? What do you think?
And fellow Forumite Claire Gregory had her sentence singled out by Janet Reid in a contest last week! Congratulations, Claire! Say, Claire and Kristen Callihan and the other authors at All the World's Our Page are currently featuring an interview with Barbara Rogan!
A propos of nothing, there's a park near my house that has a Human Rights Walk, where I discovered something new:
Trudeau park entrance
Human Rights Walk entrance
Aung San Suu Kyi inspired a U2 song!
Stephen Leacock street
Speaking of Montreal, artist Shari Blaukopf has featured some lovely sketches of the city in the past few weeks! And Montreal author Monique Polak had a great post the other day about secrets in storytelling.
And, in very exciting news, Rach Harrie's Writers' Platform Building Campaign is back! Sign up for the fifth edition begins 1 September!
Are you going to sign up to the campaign?
What have you been reading lately?
What's going on in your city?