Favorite Tropes

Hey readers! Today is Tuesday and it’s time for another Top 10. This bookish meme was hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and has been going since June 2010! Since January 2018 Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today it is all about my favorite tropes/themes in books.

1. Locked Room/Closed Mystery. You know, the ones where there’s a small group of people, isolated from the outside, and someone turns up dead. One of them just be the killer, but who? It’s even better if it was a locked room, where no one could get in or out, so how did the do it? Check out Cards on the Table or Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie for more.

2. Shakespeare retelling. I love the Bard! Any strong Shakespeare connection and I want it! One exception is Romeo & Juliet. I think that one’s overdone. See The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig or Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh.

3. Unreliable Narrator. Sure, that’s what they say happened, but how do you know for sure? This one is so much fun as it makes the reader treat the book as a puzzle. No examples here, because it’s kind of a spoiler.

4. The heist. I love these! The problem of planning a really good crime and then the way it inevitably falls apart. Try Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo or Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer.

5. Lone Survivor. Where our main character is stranded or trapped and has to survive alone. Sometimes there’s help coming, but sometimes they’re being hunted. Try The Martian by Andy Weir or The 39 Steps by John Buchan for a really old school take.

6. Redemption Arc. Give me someone who’s down and forgotten, with a debt to repay. But don’t give me someone really evil – that’s too much. I just love someone who is trying to change. Marvel’s Black Widow or The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson.

7. Theater. Not quite the same as the Shakespeare theme, this is just a book set during the production of a play. I don’t know why, but I love this so much! Theater Shoes by Noel Streitfield or Exit Actors, Dying by Margot Arnold.

8. Epistolary books. Those are books told in letters. For a middle grade, try Letters from Camp by Kate and Sarah Klise or Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede for older readers.

9. On board a train/boat. Maybe it’s because I’d love to travel more, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s another kind of Locked Room, but I eat these up. There’s The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie or Night Ferry to Death by Patricia Moyes.

10. Metafiction. Books about books, characters who know they’re characters, authors who insert themselves into the story, any or all of these. When it’s not well done it’s just aggravating, but when it is – wow, I love that. Try Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine or Poison by Chris Wooding.

What are your favorite tropes? Which ones do you hate? And tell me any recommendations you have based on my faves!

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True Crime: A List

I have always loved a good mystery. I think that’s why I’ve started getting into true crime. I don’t enjoy the “ripped from the headlines” type – it’s just too exploitative IMO. What I like are the crimes set in the past so we can see how the murderer was caught, what forensic science was like at the time, how the justice system has changed. With that in mind, here’s my list of 10 true crime stories worth checking out.

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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen. I’m going to start with my favorite. If you haven’t heard of serial killer H H Holmes, it will blow your mind that this guy was real.

The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr. It’s a close second, definitely recommended if you’re a fan of the show Bones.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale. This one is a great, easy read.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. I’m a big fan of this author, and this was his first book that I read.

Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale. It became a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. More lighthearted than the other books on here because no one died.

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olson. I thought the legal process in this one was fascinating.

The Black Hand: An Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephen Talty. I heard DiCaprio was going to star in the film version, but no details on when.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore.  This one is different because the crime was committed by a whole company, not one person. Really good, but infuriating.

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist. The author did a great job getting the feel of the city in this one. Previously reviewed here.

Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. So many details about John Wilkes Booth that I never knew.


Right, that should give you plenty of good choices at the library! Let me know in the comments of you read true crime!

 

 

January Wrap Up

A month has gone into 2019 and now is a good time to see how my reading has gone.

 

Started 28 books

DNF 4 books

6 audio books (including one I’m still listening to)

1 graphic novel/comic book

best audio: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

Best nonfiction: The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

Best YA: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Book club: Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyami

Overall, it was a slightly disappointing month. I didn’t have many absolute stinkers, but I also didn’t have any 5 star books and only a few 4 stars. I hope February will be better.

 

 

5 Thrillers in my TBR

Thrillers are so hot right now. I haven’t read a ton of them, but there are definitely times when I’m in the mood for a book that will have me on the edge of my seat. Here’s some I’m looking forward to.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

White Bodies by Jane Robins

A page-turning work of suspense that announces a stunning new voice in fiction, White Bodies will change the way you think about obsession, love, and the violence we inflict on one another–and ourselves.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect–much like the silent companions themselves.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

A contemporary gothic from an author in the company of Kelly Link and Aimee Bender, Mr. Splitfoot tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious reckoning.

Trespassing by Brandi Reeds

In a novel of mounting psychological suspense, a young mother follows a dangerous path to find her missing husband.


What do you th ink? Any that catch your eye? What thrillers are you reading?

 

 

Stocking Stuffers

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Merry Christmas! I love Christmas. I also find it pretty stressful, trying to get everything done and bought and wrapped and baked and finished in time for the big day. In case you’re struggling with the same thing, here are a few ideas for stocking stuffers or inexpensive gifts for people on your list.

Pet owner:

Framed picture of them with their pet or just their pet. You can get cheap frames at the dollar store.

Handmade coupon for dog walking

Mug with dog or cat on it and a mini hot chocolate

Notepad or stationery set with dog or cat

New leash

Handmade catnip mouse. You can get catnip at the health food store.

Gamer:

Thumb drive. You can always use another one!

Earbuds

Pokemon coloring book

Box candy

Fingerless gloves These are from the Legend of Zelda

Trading cards

Your Mom or Dad

Bottle of lotion or hand cream

Fuzzy slippers

Nice gloves

Travel mug

Imported tea or coffee and a box of shortbread

Coupon for a car wash

Photo book. Yes, it’s more work, but they would love it.

Book lover – honestly, this isn’t hard! What would you like? Besides your enormous wish list, right?

Blank journal and a gel pen to record favorite reads

Movie tickets to the latest book adaptation

Shakespeare cookie cutter and sugar cookie dough

Book pin

Read harder pint glass

Library t-shirts or bags


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And if you want to try making a stocking, here’s a tutorial I found. Merry Christmas!

 

Top 10 Tuesday – Sherlock Holmes

I’m kind of struggling with my blog this month. I’m so focused on NaNoWriMo and writing my book that I don’t have much brain left for anything else! But lists are always fun, so I decided to come up with some list today, and since I’m reading a Sherlock Holmes book right now I thought I would create a list of my 10 favorite stories about Sherlock Holmes.

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  1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Always start with the original. There are problems here, that’s for sure. Doyle didn’t do rewrites so there were plenty of errors that didn’t get fixed. When it comes to creating an iconic character, though, Doyle got it exactly right.
  2. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. The only retelling that created an original character who can stand up to Holmes and Watson. Mary Russell makes the perfect transition from the Victorian world into the modern. I love the whole series, but start from the beginning.
  3. The House of Silk by Antony Horowitz. He sticks close to the original but comes up with a new story. Great job.
  4. The Seven Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Amazing twist on the whole Moriarty thing. Confronts one of the most troubling aspects of Holmes’s story.
  5. The West End Horror by Nicholas Meyer and —
  6. Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye. Both of these take advantage of the fact that Holmes worked during the time when Jack the Ripper was operating.
  7. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer. This kid’s book is not so much about Sherlock Holmes as about his younger sister, invented cleverly here by the author. Very fun series.
  8. Sherlock Holmes through Time and Space, edited by Isaac Asimov. There are so many short stories that revolve around Holmes that it’s hard to pick one. But I *loved* the idea behind this one. Why limit such a great character to Victorian England? Even to Earth. Holmes as a robot, Holmes in space – why not!
  9. Moriarty by Antony Horowitz – I already reviewed this one here. Amazing. Amazing! You have to read this one. Listen to this one instead of reading it.
  10. A Three Pipe Problem by Julian Symons. This one takes on an actor who plays Holmes. He starts having a few problems with telling reality from the role.

Hope this list has given you Sherlock Holmes fans some ideas for further reading. If you’re not a fan already, I’d say start with the short stories. They are lots of fun.

10 Spooky Stories

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It’s dark and spooky out there. And only going to get darker and spookier.

Why not stay inside in a nice warm room and read? I’ve got some suggestions here for some perfect books to fit the season. Let’s start with the family friendly stuff before getting into the truly terrifying, shall we?

  1. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Honestly, my kids found this much less scary when they were young. But when they got older – that sewing on buttons instead of eyes?! Pretty freaking horrifying.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman. More atmospheric than truly scary, but a lovely ending. Perhaps more late summer than fall.
  3. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. All four seasons in one day. Sounds charming, but maybe a little too possessive?
  4. 163919 Full Tilt by Neil Shusterman. An evil carnival. Still appropriate for this time of year, and as a bonus, let me include Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury if you’ve never read that one. Both get right inside your head.
  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd sees ghosts. Mostly it’s guys like Elvis. But sometimes they’re not so friendly.
  6. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. This one makes you think more than scares you, but it’s so good that it’s worth reading.
  7. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Timely and terrifying.
  8. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Who are they and why do they come in winter?
  9. The Keep by Paul F. Wilson. When even the Nazis are afraid, you know there’s trouble.
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you haven’t read the original, you’ve got to do it. So. Creepy.

That’s my list for this time of month. None of them are very new, with the exception of Lovecraft Country, but there good scary reads all the same. What’s on your list?

September Wrap-Up

September is over! I’m so glad summer is over! I feel like this year has flown by. It’s definitely been a better year than last year for me. And this was a pretty good month, for reading and other stuff. Here’s a look at what I read this month, and best of each category.

Audiobooks

It has been the year of the audiobook for me! And this month was no exception.

  • Frogkisser by Garth Nix – 4 stars, review here
  • Newt’s Emerald, also by Garth Nix – 4 stars, review here
  • The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner – 5 stars!!!
  • American Colonies by Alan Taylor – 3.4 stars, review here
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – 5 stars, review here
  • Entwined by Heather Dixon – 4.2 stars
  • The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton – 4 stars, review here

Lots of great choices this time. I actually have 2 books with 5 star ratings, and I’m torn between the two. TQOA was a reread, but AMCO was new to me. Still, I love Eugenides the Thief so much, I have to give the award to that one.

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Graphic Novels

Only one this time, Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon. Only rating it 3 stars, although it got higher marks from other folks. Still, I’m glad I read it. Review here.

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ARCS and Review Books

Two finished this month, and I didn’t like either one.

  • Trust in Axion by Bruce Meyer, 1.5 stars, review here
  • Darkwater: Xenkur Chonricles by DW Johnson, 1 star, review here

 

Challenges

This month was my Off the Shelf Challenge, to clear out some of my TBR books around the house and off my Kindle queue. I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped – those darn library books were just so tempting. (Maybe if I actually stayed out of the library it would have helped, right?)

  • Passage by Connie Willis, 4.3 stars
  • Enchanted by KM Shea, 4 stars
  • The Dragon Man by Garry Disher, 2.2 stars, review here
  • The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd, DNF
  • Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen by Bill Crider, 3.75 stars, review here
  • Something New by PG Wodehouse, 3.5 stars

Not bad, but not great. Still, the winner was Passage, solid sci-fi by the master. I haven’t done a review yet, but it was really good.

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Library Books

Yeah, I meant to stay out of the library all together, but I sneaked in at the end of August and didn’t get around to reading the books until this month, so here they are.

  • Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews, 3.5 stars
  • Die Like an Eagle, also by Donna Andrews, 3.3 stars

It doesn’t matter much, here, but I liked the Halloween setting of the first book slightly better than the second. Still, both are recommended if you like funny mysteries. Reviews here.

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So that was my month in books! I’m currently STILL reading The Queens of the Conquest (it’s going to kill me!), plus Nation by Terry Pratchett on audio, and a fantasy/myth anthology. No definite plans for October other than maybe some spooky fare. We’ll see. What was your favorite book this month?

Update on Book Riot Challenge

*1. Read a book about sports. Done! Psmith in the City, cricket. by P G Wodehouse.

*2. Read a debut novel. Done! Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

*3. Read a book about books. Done! End of Chapter, mystery about publishing company.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – still looking!

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

*6. Read an all-ages comic. Done! American Born Chinese

*7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Done! Cakes and Ale, published 1930

*8. Read a travel memoir. Done! Three Singles to Adventure, to Guyana.

*9. Read a book you’ve read before. Done! Murder Over Easy, read first in 2007

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Desert Solitaire, Utah

*11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Done! The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, Malaysia/China

*12. Read a fantasy novel. Done! The Spirit Thief by Rachel Bach

*13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. – currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about medicine and cell therapy

*14. Read a book about war. Done! Valiant Ambition, about American Revolution

*15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Done! Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig

*16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.  Done! Animal Farm, by George Orwell

17. Read a classic by an author of color. – Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley or Native Son by Richard Wright

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – either Spider Woman or Daughters of the Dragon

*19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey Done! The House of the Scorpion

*20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean) Done! Also Last Seen Leaving

*21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay) Done! Future Worlds, A Science Fiction Anthology, published by Future World Publishing

*22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)  Done! Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan) Beowulf

*24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi) Done! Black Panther, Number 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How about you folks? Is anyone else doing this challenge? If you are, what books have you read for the challenge? What do you have left?

10 Writing Mistakes That Really Bug Me!

I’ve been reading more indie fiction, and one thing about indie books, they don’t always have great editing. I get it; editors cost money. If you’ve signed with a publishing firm, they pay for all that. But if you’re self-published, you have to pay for it for yourself.

I’m sure it’s hard to come up with the money for that before anyone has even bought a single copy of your book. But it’s money well spent. Having a good editor can be the difference between a book that makes me want finish so I can recommend it to all my friends and one that I am happy to put off reading for something better.

In the spirit of helping, here are 10 writing mistakes that I have noticed that really mark your work as something that could have used an editor.

  1. Typos. These are so obvious, but they are so very annoying. It’s one thing on the internet, but when you’ve released a book? They make it look like a junior high project.
  2. Spelling mistakes. This goes along with the first one, but it has to be said again. This time I’m including the mistakes that spell check doesn’t pick up, but are still wrong.
  3. Forgetting a character’s name. Hello! Make a cheat sheet or something. But calling a character by one name in one page and something else on another page? That’s sloppy.
  4. You’re/your, it’s/its. Contractions are for when you leave a letter out. If you’re (hint) not sure, look it up. Or get that editor to do it for you!
  5. Too many dialogue tags. Oh, and using something besides “said” when you do use one. Occasionally replied, or asked, or complained, is acceptable, but mostly use said. And mostly leave it off. We don’t need it.
  6. Overusing characters’ names. Obviously you have to do it sometimes but there’s a balance. Too much and it becomes awkward and clunky.
  7. Either too much action or too much dialogue or too much interior monologue. The best books have a mix of all three. Readers want action, but they need a slow space to catch their breath, to think and figure stuff out, to bond with the characters, and to figure out what the characters are thinking. But too much of any one of these three elements and the book doesn’t work.
  8. No subplots. That’s a real difference I see between beginning writers (like me, I admit it) and more polished writers. Beginners are focused on just one plot. But that can make a book too predictable. The best writers create depth by adding subplots and characters with back stories that engage the reader.
  9. Black and white writing. Characters that are all good or all bad. People in real life are very seldom like that, so reading about people like that is just boring. Give your characters reasons to behave they way they do and people will love them more.
  10. Not listening to your editor. Once you have paid your editor, or begged your friends or writing group, to read and reread your work, take their advice. I’m not saying everything they say has to be adhered to, but if you ask someone for help, take the help they offer. Make the changes. Even if it means starting over. Your work will be stronger in the end.