I‘ve missed a few weeks even though I’ve been reading. But, moving forward!
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?
• What are you currently reading?
Another library ebook loan, Crossed, by Ally Condie. This is a strong book for the middle of the trilogy. In a dystopian future where teenagers are matched by the Society and given their spouse/match, what happens if there is a mistake? That’s the first book, Matched, which I first mentioned here (scroll down). The second book deals with the fallout from that mistake. This is the now-typical romantic plot of a girl with two guys to choose between, but it works on all levels. The world-building is strong and interesting and the characters are not cookie-cutter. The final book, Reached, is available for pre-order and will be out in November.
I’m also reading The Disorderly Knights: Third in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett. I was already into it when Crossed showed up from the library. Since there is a waiting list for Crossed and I own Disorderly Knights, I decided to stop and read the fast-read YA dystopia so I can get it back into circulation. Aren’t I a good citizen? Can’t wait to get back to Lymond, though. [I used an older cover because I think it's pretty, and it shows the Malta setting so nicely.]
• What did you recently finish reading?
I earlier mentioned an audiobook, Anita by Keith Roberts. This is from the Neil Gaiman Presents collection on audible, and he says he chose it because, “Anita is an almost forgotten novel by one of the finest UK writers. It works on two levels. The stories are a product of the 1960s – they come out of a swinging world and a ‘Georgy Girl’ time, and Keith Roberts, then a young art director, has captured that feel. At the same time, it’s about a teenage witch being brought up her Granny. He writes about her falling in love, getting her heart broken, about change and growing up and compromise, about what magic is and how you can lose it sometimes and how you can get it back.”
I’m bringing it up again because… well, it’s one of those very rare audiobooks that I didn’t finish. It’s a short story collection and it frankly didn’t hold my attention. Others’ mileage definitely varies.
Fortunately, Thief of Shadows, by Elizabeth Hoyt, fared better. The fourth in the Maiden Lane series, it was an easy listen with a nice and unexpected twist at the end that probably raised it to 4 stars from the 3.5 I was thinking of giving it. I think I’m getting burned out on romances. I like more plot and less emphasis on “when will they?” and “how?” and such. On the other hand, this book had a younger man/virgin hero which is not the norm. Recommended for readers of historical romance, especially if you like a setting in the underbelly of London along with the usual.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
After I finish the third chronicle of Lymond (see above) I have so many to choose from, but I may make a quick foray into the realm of nonfiction with Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth I. Cline.
“Overdressed does for T-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.” —Katha Pollitt, The Nation columnist
I need to buy some clothes, having lost weight over the past few months. I’m much more interested in cotton and wool than synthetics for various reasons. This book looks like it’s the right inspiration at the right time. If it gets me out of t-shirts and jeans it will have moved a mountain!
What about you? What are your WWWs? If you post on your blog, leave a link below! Otherwise answer here.
Warning: My notifications aren’t working. If you leave a comment, I will reply to it! But you won’t know unless you check back to see. Sorry. I’m having wordpress issues!
This is cool on so many levels. If you clicked his name, you might have noticed that it took you to a UK website–Rick’s publisher. I’m sure this comes as news to you, but anything UK just makes me grin. Rick’s first novel, Hellfire, an international thriller, is set in Wales. I didn’t know Rick had a book out, and now I have a new British-setting book to read. Score!
[Speaking of Wales, the Resident Storm Chaser and I have just discovered Torchwood and we love it. I'd been told it was a spinoff of Dr Who and hadn't watched it figuring I didn't know enough Dr Who to spin off... was wrong. Totally. Wrong. Torchwood rocks. Sorry, I digress.]
Rick knows I am a big proponent of the writing tools of Blake Snyder as described in his books, beginning with Save The Cat! , which is why he let me know about his presence on the blog. I’m so glad he did. If you are a writer who has struggled with the one-page synopsis, let Rick tell you how he used Save the Cat’s beat sheet to conquer that mountain. Or, as I call it, beating the cat.
Yes. One single page can be a mountain. Writers? Am I wrong?
I love when former students check in to let me know what’s going on in their careers. Thanks, Rick!
One problem I have with writing reviews is that I don’t like negatively influencing what someone might buy. You know how it goes. Somebody you respect urges you, read this book, and you do and don’t like it. Well, you know, “I love this book and you might, too,” is one thing. But, “This book didn’t work for me and this is why,” has the potential to do something worse, in my opinion, and that’s discouraging someone from reading something they might have loved.
Now don’t get me wrong. I actually loved a lot about Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk.
The characterization was superb. I loved Hawker. I loved Owl. These characters were sensitively and exquisitely drawn. I sometimes ached for them. Both were children with horrid pasts who grew up scarred yet amazingly strong. She was French and he was English, and both were spies. They were enemies in love, and it worked on every level. This is romance at its finest.
I’ve sought out other reviews and every one I’ve read was written by someone who had read all of Bourne’s previous books and has waited with great anticipation for Hawker’s story. I wonder how much difference it makes that these reviewers opened the book already knowing Hawker at different periods in his life, had already fallen under the spell of his personality and the things he overcame, and entered the story with that knowledge.
Here’s the way it worked for me. I had read one previous book and honestly, really liked it a lot, and honestly, remembered little about it when I opened this one. And when I opened this one, it worked. I didn’t know Hawker’s past, nor did I know Owl’s. And from the earliest pages I was caught up in their story.
[Do you sense a "but" coming?]
This book is told through a series of flashbacks that were perfectly executed. I never got lost, and once I got into each time period (which didn’t take long) I was caught up in the tensions and dramas of the moment. As a novel, this structure worked.
As a romance novel? Here is my “but” and I offer it knowing that few other reviewers have had this problem. I was never able to sink fully into the narrative of the story–despite how beautifully the relationship was drawn–because it was not told chronologically and did not give me the “romance novel” experience of a building tension that left me breathless, wondering what would happen next. I knew from the beginning what would happen next. They would survive to a certain age and position in London. “How” was a question, but I was robbed of much of the drama. When one flashback ended in what could be seen as an ultimate betrayal of one gravely injuring another, I was not left with the devastated individual dealing with the knowledge that their beloved would think it was done deliberately. I didn’t suffer with the other who must have believed that very thing.
Instead, I was whisked back to the present.
It was only when I finished the book that I was able to put all of this in perspective, to understand how I could find the book so well-constructed and emotionally gripping, and yet feel distanced. It was because the very construction that on the one had worked, did not ever allow me to completed give myself over to the story and live through the characters.
I say this knowing that I am in the minority, and hoping I don’t discourage anybody from reading this book. I do wonder if it would have been different, had I entered the book with the same deep background knowledge and affection for the characters as the typical romance reviewer.
As a novel I would give it 5 stars, meaning, I enjoyed the heck out of this book.
As a romance, I would give it 4, and since it was meant to be a romance I will have to stand by that rating.
But hey, if you like romance, read it and let me know what you think. It’s a book worth reading.
[Subscribe to this blog, comment on the contest entry, win a prize? It could happen!]
This is about the first novel I had published, La Desperada. It’s about the script adaptation I wrote that was based on that novel. It’s about Paul Newman. It’s about a lot of things.
But mainly, it’s about how (if I want to do the Hollywood stretch) I almost wrote a script for Paul.
Or if you want to do the reality check, it’s about how I maybe almost talked to him on the phone.
Mainly, it’s about my writing, my western, my attempts to get it made as a movie, and my new efforts to bring out the ebook.
And it’s about a book by Gwendon Swarthout called The Homesman.
Some years ago one of the producers on the film UNFORGIVEN read my western script, liked it a lot, and said to me, “You know, as I was reading this, I thought, this is the writer who needs to adapt THE HOMESMAN for Paul Newman.”
That is a moment. A Moment. Somebody actually tied me as a screenwriter to a project for Paul Newman. Not that he was in position to do anything about it, mind you. But still. It put an idea in my head. (Dangerous place for ideas, my head.)
I read THE HOMESMAN and loved a lot of it–except for (no spoiler here, I’m restraining myself) how the female protagonist dealt with her loss near the end. And I knew, yes, I could write the hell out of this script, but not if Paul (he was Paul in my mind by this point) wanted THAT to happen!
I wrote Mr Newman (well, it was official correspondence so it didn’t seem right to call him Paul) and told him what I’d been told, and that I’d love to offer myself up for the task of adapting The Homesman for him.
I really did that.
And–it gets worse.
I did that knowing–KNOWING–that the script he’d been shopping around trying to get made was supposedly causing all sorts of problems because everybody “knew” that despite whatever name was on the script, Paul had written it himself. And nobody wanted to say, “Paul, this script is bad.”
So it didn’t get made, it kept getting passed around, and…
I wrote and offered my services as a screenwriter.
*takes a bow*
Yes, that is chutzpah.
Of course nothing came of it.
Until many months later, I came home from somewhere to find a message on my answering machine. A voice said, “Call for Patricia from Mr Newman.” And when I didn’t answer, there were murmurs and then a voice continued, “Mr Newman wanted to thank you for your interest in The Homesman, but he isn’t looking for a writer at this time. If his plans change, he will let you know.”
I almost fell flat on the floor. ON the FLOOR, people.
First of all, it sounded distinctly as if–had I been home–I might have actually spoken to MR NEWMAN my own sassy self! (That murmuring in the background? I am sure it was Paul-murmurs. Seriously. I could tell.) (Okay, maybe in retrospect I decided I could tell.) (Okay, I have no idea, but it had to be, didn’t it? Oh hush.)
At any event, his asst had called to pass verbally, and so nicely and–
Well, I eventually started breathing again.
And that was the end of it.
My brush with almost maybe writing a script for Paul Newman, okay, maybe almost talking to him on the phone.
Moving forward… I’d had a few people tell me that my book reminded them of Unforgiven in several ways (though my book was published first), and then this mention of my potential skill with the material in the The Homesman, and then…
One day I was looking for book comparisons for my new ebook, La Desperada, so I could say, if you like THIS you might like mine, it has been compared to Unforgiven* only with a love story and sex,” and somebody said, “This might be helpful. Unforgiven was written by a guy who was influenced by a novelist, did you know that? He was influenced by Gwendon Swarthout, who wrote The Shootist and The Homesman.”
As comparisons go, it probably doesn’t help me a lot, as these are books which I suggest very few of my target audience will have ever read.
And yet it felt very odd, like a voice from the distant past bring back a producer from Unforgiven and a near-brush with Paul Newman and The Homesman and…
I like to think that if Gwendon Swarthout had ever written a western with love and sex, somebody just might have said to him, “You know what, this reminds me a lot of that book by Patricia Burroughs….”
* I could tell you about the time my script got couriered to Carmel because Clint wanted to read it, but that would just be name-dropping.
The novel La Desperada and the Nicholl Award-winning script Redemption are now available in the same download here on Book View Cafe.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There is no justice in the world. What is it about certain British actors that means they not only act, but sing, dance, play various musical instruments and are effing good writers?
Seriously? This book, by Dr House himself, is hysterically funny with rapid-fire dialogue and a fair amount of action. I have recommended it to several like-minded people and they’ve all loved it, too.
Give it a shot.
And I guess it’s okay that there is no justice in the world, if it means I get to read books like this.
For your reading tantalization, here is the first page of The Gun Seller:
Imagine that you have to break someone’s arm.
Right or left, doesn’t matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don’t…well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s just say bad things will happen if you don’t.
Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly – snap, whoops sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint – or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure n the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?
Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.
Unless unless unless.
What if you were to hate the person on the other end of arm? I mean, really really hate them.
This was a thing I now had to consider.
I say now, meaning then, meaning the moment I am describing; the moment fractionally, oh so bloody fractionally, before my wrist reached the back of my neck and my left humerus broke into at least two, very possibly more, floppily joined-together pieces.
The arm we’ve been discussing, you see, is mine. It’s not an abstract, philosopher’s arm. The bone, the skin, the hairs the small white scar on the point of the elbow, won from the corner of a storage heater at Gateshill Primary School – they all belong to me. And now is the moment when I must consider the possibility that the man standing behind me, gripping my wrist and driving it up my spine with an almost sexual degree of care, hates me. I mean, really, really hates me.
He is taking for ever.
THE GUN SELLER
One week only–46 Heyer title for only $1.99!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MS. HEYER!
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August 15-August 21, 2011
Heyer’s Birthday: August 16, 2011
Tuesday, August 16 would have been Georgette Heyer’s 109th birthday. In honor of this most beloved author, who many call the Queen of Regency Romance, Sourcebooks is discounting EVERY SINGLE one of the eBooks we currently have available to $1.99 for one week, getting Heyer’s Birthday Party started a day early on August 15!
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Available from the sourcebooks site.
Or if you have a Kindle and prefer to buy straight from Amazon, here.
The special sale only applies to the 46 Heyer titles published by Sourcebooks, and to Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.
That is not a description of me or of anybody else. It’s not a criticism nor is it an accusation.
It’s the title of the newest Gail Carriger delight, Heartless.
I’m not sure why the cover looks decidedly different from the earlier covers, even though it is so similar. Maybe because the model is staring straight at you? Anyway, it’s unsettling to me, in a “why did they mess with what works?” way.
But that’s neither here nor there. What is relevant is this. I am thoroughly enjoying the wit, the story’s twists and turns, and the all-round pleasure of reading this tale. I think Carriger may have hit her stride. Start at the beginning with Soulless if you haven’t already.
Be relieved that there are now four in the series, and you don’t have to wait for each new update.
Until, of course, you finish Heartless, and then you’ll be with me, wondering what on earth is going to happen next.
And now, of course, you know the extent of my diabolical plan to suck others into the anticipatory state of the Cult of -less.
There is nothing lesser about it.
I‘m a genre reader. Tell me a story, entertain me, have some logic and reason that holds together and an end that makes sense. I don’t read a lot of literature. So when A Visit from the Goon Squad was announced today as the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, I felt jazzed. Wow, I’ve read that. I liked it. I read a Pulitzer Prize winner before it even won the prize.
First time that might have happened was Lonesome Dove: A Novel. I got it for Christmas. It’s inscribed something like, “Merry Christmas, we love you, Sam, Douglas, James, Scott, Larry McMurtry.” I’ve always wondered whether he wasn’t paying attention when he autographed it by adding his name to the column or whether it was intentional, and whether this would stand up in court as “He treated me like family, of course I’m an heir,” someday. Anyway, I read it, loved it, went to see him at Brookhaven College in Dallas and heard him speak and got it autographed and then, a few months later, my son came out of his bedroom one morning and said, “Where’s that book we gave you for Christmas? It just won the Pulitzer Prize.”
I dug it out from under the pile of newspapers and put it on the shelf of honor where it belongs.
I’m pretty sure it happened again. I’m pretty sure I had already read Breathing Lessons when Anne Tyler brought home the Prize for it, but my only reaction was that I loved The Accidental Tourist so much more.
But I look back at all of these books, save one, and I see they all have the same things in common. They told stories, they had logic, they had beginnings and middles and ends, and they entertained me, and they ended in satisfying ways. They did the same things that my genre books do. Which is why I tell classes, I don’t read “literature” and I can’t tell you how to write it, but there is nothing I teach in my classes that can’t be used in writing “literature.”
And then, there is A Visit From the Goon Squad, which is a collection of tangentially connected short stories that doesn’t exactly fit that description. It fascinates and entertains, but it jumps from place to place and goes off in unexpected directions and skips huge gaps in time, following an unexpected trail around the edges of rock and roll.
I loved it.
Read any of these books and I think you will find much to love, too.
Which Pulitzer winners have you read? Were they assigned or did you read them on your own? Love, hate, meh? Page-turners or DNF (did not finish)?
Another month, another book in the Steampunk Challenge.
And this puts me in a strange place. I just mentioned a few days ago that I don’t like giving reviews that are less than positive because any book that I dislike, others will love, and I kind of hate to dissuade anyone from reading a book that they might have been interested in otherwise. And yet I’m in this challenge which involves at the very least, writing a few words about the books I read.
And in this case, I can’t rave about it.
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist has received its share of raves, mind you. A lot of people LOVE this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and I never wanted to bail on it, it was intriguing, interesting, the world-building was strong, and I can see why it was well-received.
Dahlquist needed a bit of assistance in plotting. He’s a playwright and this was his first novel. I got a bit tired of the lather/rinse/repeat nature of the story with his three main characters constantly getting captured, witnessing horrifying things, and then escaping. Again. And again. And again. His three main characters are an odd and intriguing trio–a heroine who wants to find out why her fiance has written her a strange and unexpected “Dear Jane” letter and thus begins an investigation into dark, dangerous places. An assassin who dwells in such places. And a very proper gentleman whose sense of duty draws him into dark, dangerous places. Sounds like a good start, doesn’t it?
So please don’t listen to me. Go read it for yourself. This immense chunk of Victorian steampunk has a lot to sink your teeth into and the odds are great that you’ll be one of the ones who love it.
Earlier steampunk challenge reviews.
Sidebar: This is the second book I’ve read that was inspired by a dream where I thought the author could have done a much better job finding a way to incorporate that dream into fiction. And a gazillion people didn’t agree with me on the first one, either.
Okay, about that steampunk challenge.
One steampunk book a month for a year. Twelve steampunk reads.
I’m on my third in October. I could space them out and list/review one a month, but that makes me itch. I am just going to mention them as I read them, and don’t expect any real reviews from me because that’s too much like work.
Also, the first three have all been audiobooks that I downloaded from audible (if you sign up, tell them dallaspooks sent ya) and so what I will actually be discussing is a different experience than reading.
First, Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, and its sequel, Behemoth. These are YA (Young Adult) novels that have been getting fabulous word of mouth and I finally broke down and decided to
read them listen to them. And I’m so glad I did. Set on the brink of World War I, Leviathan begins the night that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in Sarajevo, with their 15-year-old son being rousted out of bed and hustled away from the palace by a sinister pair of men–and straight into action-packed adventure which continues into its sequel. I don’t know how long the series is projected to be, but there are clearly more coming.
In the meantime in England a 15-year-old Scottish girl is pretending to be a boy so she can be an airman with the British Air Service, as her brother is and her father was before her. Again–straight into action-packed adventure.
In this revisioning of World War I the nations are the same and on the same teams, but many of the details are different. The world building is superb. The German side are “Clankers” whose war machines are fantastical and mechanical. The English side are “Darwinists” who have created strange new creatures (or “beasties,” as Deryn calls them) to go to war.
Scott Westerfeld’s world is amazing. The action is almost nonstop but always inventive and fresh. The characterizations are rich. At the end of each book are author notes that describe what aspects of the books are true history and where Westerfeld got creative, and I was as fascinated by the real history as I was the books themselves. It was gratifying to see that some of the more interesting twists were historic facts that he’d woven sp deftly into his stories it was impossible for me to know what was real and what was new.
Alan Cumming as narrator is phenomenal. He reads with breathless energy, gives the characters appropriate and wonderful accents that enhance their personalities and backgrounds, and made me want to listen nonstop. At a time when I was highly distracted by a lot of real life issues, these books were always compelling and easy to fall into.
I highly recommend them as audiobooks or to read. I may actually end up buying these books because the art looks pretty darned cool.