Category Archives: mystery

Book Review: One For The Money by Janet Evanovich

After hearing about this book from my friend E., I found it at a library book sale a few weeks ago and picked it up for a dollar.  I’m not generally a mystery person, I’ll admit.  As you might tell from some of the other books I have reviewed, I’m far more into the Fantasy and the Sci-Fi ends of things. And Vampires.  Never forget the Vampires.

I was a bit afraid that it would be dry and that I would put it down half way because the plot was getting too hard to follow, or a plot device came out of left field that tied everything up in a bow and everyone could move on from there quite neatly. Sadly, that has been my experience with most mysteries. But my Grandma enjoys Evanovich, and E. likes a lot of the same types of books that I do.

First, this is a terrible book to read before bed, because you will. not. put. it. down. It hooked me at the beginning and didn’t let go until the end. Finished it in about a day and a half when all was said and done, reading it on breaks at work, before bed, and while food was cooking. The characters are all clear and multi-dimensional, and could easily be someone you see walking down the street. The myriad of plot lines twist and turn together in such a way that though they might get confusing, they never get hopelessly entangled and it never seems as though Evanovich has written herself too far into a corner. The twists and turns in the plot make sense when you get to them and I felt dense a few times when I didn’t see where it was going until after it already got there.

The main character, Stephanie Plum, meets with wonderfully crazy people all over, from completely insane and scary to her almost weekly lunches with her Italian family in Trenton. I’m a person who loves a good dash of reality in all my stories too, and it’s clear to me that research was done for this tale. The details in Stephanie’s cars and forms of transportation was always a wonderful way to break tension in the story too, letting the reader catch their breath when things began to get intense.

My one issue with this first book in the Plum series is that it ended far too quickly. It was very much a fade to black at the climax of the story and it was just explained to the reader in the last chapter what happened. Telling instead of showing. Personally, I felt rather cheated at the ending and would have liked to have “witnessed” what happened instead or having it be revealed later. But to each his or her own, so I can deal with it.

It’s a quick read, so I got my $1 out of it that I originally spent, but I don’t know if I would pay full price for it. Thankfully, there are libraries and Half Price Books, so I’m set for when I look for the next one in the series: Two for the Dough.

As a side note: I’ll be visiting my family and sister this weekend, so I’ll be interviewing the Sister regarding her thoughts on the Hunger Games while I’m there. Something to look forward to.

cover photo of book from here: http://0.tqn.com/d/bestsellers/1/0/g/9/-/-/one_money.jpg


DEXTER WEEK DAY ONE: Know Your Setting

A good setting can be hard to build.  Some think the world of fantasy is easier to work in as you can make everything up. But such a fantastical world still needs to make sense, not to mention the fact that if there are books later, expect to go back through what you wrote earlier in order to make sure it is all the same (or pray that you haven’t lost your notes on it).

Writing in the “real world” is perhaps a bit easier.  Streets, landmarks, even the local gas station is already there, all you need to do is change names to “protect the innocent”.  There is no lee-way here though either.  If Avenue A has been under construction in the time period you are writing your story in, expect to have readers dive-bomb you if you make Avenue A easy to drive around on and wide open with four lanes of traffic.

This is where research is your friend.

Learn all that you can about a place before you start writing your story in it.  Have a map open on the background of your computer of the important streets and locations that you can refer to when your main character is chasing after the man who just robbed him (or is running away from the cops).  It’s a bonus if you have lived there for any length of time and have walked the streets.  The added realism truly helps to bring the reader closer to believing that what they are reading is real.

If you can’t live there, visit the city of your choice at least once to experience it.  And, if that’s not possible, build a network of people who live there that you can call and ask them “Hey, can you drive past here today and tell me what you see?”

The Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay are really wonderful examples of this.  The world is fleshed out, the setting of Miami remaining as close to possible to the “real world” during writing.  Current events are mentioned in the books, including the effects of the economic downturn, wars, crimes, even the daily flow of traffic from Miami to the Keys.  Boating marinas, islands, and, in the newest book Double Dexter, the local “color” as seen in the form of sharks and people, are all included.  This well-rounded environment is a world that is believable even in its fiction.

Look around you.  You have a setting that you know well right there.  Try writing a few hundred words describing that place to get a feel for setting creation.  And if it’s a fantasy world you want to write…well…  Go get out your D&D books and plan a “game”.  By the end of that, you’ll have a fully fleshed out setting that you can steal pieces and parts from to create something you and your readers will enjoy.

For more information on setting creation, check out these links:

http://ecreativewritingideas.com/creative-writing-ideas/creative-writing-ideas-setting

http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewArticle.asp?id=54447


Reading the Classics

In last week’s post on HG Wells‘ classic The War of the World, two commenters really made me stop and think.  First was Mymatejoechip, who cautioned against feeling as though I had to read all of the classics.  Then there was Joachim Boaz, who suggested that I try reading Wells other “classic” book, The Invisible Man.

Within these two comments, there are two different thoughts on the classics, I feel, and whether an author—or a reader—should feel pressed that he/she should read them.

There are some of the classics that I feel should be read by those wishing to pursue writing as a career, as these were the books that did it first.  So, in no particular order, I give you Megan Hammer’s List of Classic Books Authors Should Read (or at least try):

Dracula, by Stoker, is first on this list.  It really created the modern horror genre as we think of it today, not to mention that it began the vampire craze that has carried over to this day.  It showcases three different writing styles—journalistic, narrative first person and narrative third on occasion—and truly reveals how it’s possible to have one story told from three or four different perspectives.  The fact that Dracula is so rarely seen in the latter half makes him even more frightening, and truly puts forth the idea that horror is caused by the unknown, and that we, as readers, don’t need to know everything.

I also believe Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein should be on this list.  While not as horrific in the traditional sense as Dracula, it is excellent for seeing the nuances of human behavior through the eyes of what society deems a monster.  And how, by naming something, we can often bring about its existence, simply because we see it is there.  Frankenstein was also one of the first books in the “modern” world written by a woman, which really helped to, I think, pave the way for the rest of us woman writers out there.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, in fact, anything by Jules Verne, is well worth a read, I think.  Each of his books are well written, and explore ideas that were so far-fetched in their days but are brought to a level that makes sense. Travel around the world in eighty days?  Impossible in the 1800s to even imagine.  Now we can do it in 80 hours. Journey is brilliant for the fact that most of it is fantastical, a rather revolutionary idea at the time of writing, when most books weren’t involving strange creatures and places.

Lord of the Rings might be cliché, but it really did cement the place of Fantasy in the hearts of many, and was one of the first main-stream fantasies to be out there.  Yes, it’s long and drawn out, but think of the fact that Tolkien was writing it while in the trenches in order to keep everyone amused and away from the horrors of war.  They are well written, and every last loose end is accounted for.  In terms of setting creation, there is no better book to come to than Lord of the Rings to watch a master at work.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is one I suggest reading if you have time and are willing to read it several times in order to make sense of it.  The name has become a catchprase in our modern culture, which really shows its lasting power.  I did a 20 page research paper on it back in High School, and even after spending that much time on it, there were things I was still discovering about and laughing at.  This book takes the cake for a study in narrative and character creation.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a good series, and I think mystery writers especially should read at least one of them in their lifetime.  It’s an exercise in clue-gathering, and wondering why you didn’t see that the Maid was actually the victim the entire time you were reading!  Most of the books are rather short, and easy to get through in one afternoon or so.

So there is my list of classics I think people should read.  What ones are on your list?  Are they classics, modern contempories, or that one book you found just last week on the bargain shelf at the bookstore that you fell in love with?