Better Late . . .

My fault, I'm late posting. All day yesterday I was thinking that I had to write this blog. I was up at 6:00 to get out of the house with my oldest daughter by 7:00 to drive an hour to a volleyball tournament. There, I wrote on my laptop while she wasn't playing (I have another deadline mid-March) and watched her play. Then we had to leave early to get her to basketball practice back home at 2:00. Then, because my other kids were cooped up all day, I took them to see HOTEL FOR DOGS (cute, good for little kids, but not as funny as BEDTIME STORIES which we saw last month.) Then, pick up oldest daughter from basketball practice at 4:30, go home so she could shower, then haul everyone over to meet my mom for dinner at six. We got home at eight–all the little kids went to bed. My older two and I were going to watch BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (we're in the middle of season three) and I planned on writing the blog while watching . . . except daughter #1 fell to sleep (surprise–Friday was a late day too–choir at seven a.m., basketball game at 6 p.m., and back to school for talent show where we didn't leave until 10 . . . )

Tangent: My daughter's varsity basketball team won their season undefeated and host playoffs next week. Another long week . . . but it'll be fun!

I sat in bed (first mistake) laptop on my night stand . . . and the next thing I know, it's four in the morning and my littlest Brennan is crawling into bed with me. I'm sweating because my husband turned up the heater sometime in the middle of the night (I usually am the last to bed, and I make sure the heater is low, but sometimes it's the battle of the temperatures throughout the night. I should win–you can always put on more blankets, but there's only so much you can take off . . . especially when you have little kids who crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night!)

Then I woke up and made coffee and sat down to read email and then clicked on my blogroll and saw Alex's post and realized, damn! I forgot my blog!

I had wanted to write about character development because of an interesting thread on one of my writers loops that began lamenting the changes in books from leisurely openings to fast-paced, know everything about the protagonist opening as soon as possible. 

Because I don't have time to write the blog I'd been thinking–it's Sunday morning and we have church and then I promised my older girls a mall trip–I thought I'd beg forgiveness and simply ask about the last fiction book you enjoyed and would recommend to others. It can be any book, any genre and I'll ask you:

Title
Author
Why you recommend the book–what did you love most about it?
Then look at the first three pages. Did they start with action, backstory, dialogue, the protagonist, the villain, or what? Were you engaged by the content or the voice or both?

Me:

STRANGERS IN DEATH
JD Robb
Another GREAT installment in the IN DEATH series. I swear, she's getting better with each book. (And yes, I know I'm a book behind. I've been busy.)
The books almost always start with a dead body (my favorite openings.) So I'd say it starts with action. There is no dialogue on the first page, but the protagonist, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, is recording her visual observations by page two. So we know the victim, the manner of death, the surroundings, and in that the mystery begins instantly.

Some of my favorite opening paragraphs come from the JD Robb books. This one:

"Murder harbored no bigotry, no bias. It subscribed to no class system. In its gleeful, deadly, and terminally judicious way, murder turned a blind eye on race, creed, gender, and social stratum. As Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood in the sumptuous bedroom of the recently departed Thomas A. Anders, she considered that."

The nice things about the Robb books is that I can sit down and read one in a night, a few hours were I completely immerse myself in another world and end it completely satisfied.

So what about you? Latest great read and why?

Next time, I promise a meatier post.

15 thoughts on “Better Late . . .

  1. Louise Ure

    Allison, I’m going to recommend a book I haven’t read yet. Joe Gores’ Spade and Archer: A Prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

    I saw Gores speak yesterday at an MWA Norcal meeting and his discussion of how to develop the character back story that Hammett didn’t tell us was amazing. If Hammett mentioned a specific gun (a Wembley .32 Something or Other), Gores asked himself “how would Spade have known about this rare gun from England that was a competition target pistol but often jammed and misfired in combat?” He built the story from there. Cool huh?

    Reply
  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    You need to be cloned. I got tired just reading about your duties. You’re amazing.

    Title: THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEFAuthor: Elle NewmarkWhy you recommend the book–what did you love most about it?:”15th century Venice — Luciano is only a street urchin when the doge of Venice’s chef finds him, but once dragged into the kitchen as an apprentice, he discovers more bubbling than boiling water. While Luciano pines away for a girl and learns the basics of chopping, sweeping and eavesdropping, Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist’s dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.. As he and his maestro become friendlier, Luciano begins to learn that there’s more to his teacher than a garden of strange plants and a box of spices…” Great descriptions of food, Venice, and the idea that chefs are the Guardians of hidden knowledge is brilliant.

    Then look at the first three pages. Did they start with action, backstory, dialogue, the protagonist, the villain, or what? Were you engaged by the content or the voice or both?:

    We get character (told in first person by the protagonist) and action as Luciano is on the streets of 15th century Venice, steals a pomegranate and is caught by the master chef who sees something in him. I was pulled in immediately and recommend this book highly.

    Reply
  3. toni mcgee causey

    I second that cloning comment.

    After reading Louise’s and PK’s picks, I have a feeling I’m going to be buying a lot of books today.

    One of my recs would be:

    TITLE: Trigger CityAUTHOR: Sean Chercover

    Why I’d recommend? The writing and story grabbed me and pulled me in. I completely forgot that a friend wrote it–and I couldn’t put it down.

    “Then look at the first three pages. Did they start with action, backstory, dialogue, the protagonist, the villain, or what? Were you engaged by the content, the voice or both?”

    I was engaged immediately by the voice–the opening page had me hooked. The opening three pages have all of the above–action, backstory (the crime), protagonist, villain (though we don’t quite know all of that, yet).

    My second recommend would be Allison’s SUDDEN DEATH — which comes out next month. Grabbed me from the first graph and didn’t let go, and I was super busy at the time, I shouldn’t have been reading, but I couldn’t put it down.

    Reply
  4. J.T. Ellison

    I hope you get time to sleep one of these days ; )

    My choice is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

    Opens with a letter (it’s an epistolary novel) about a book signing – which immediately sucked me in. An author? Writing a letter? Wonderful! And admitting she’s blocked? Even better.

    Just a fantastic, engaging and memorable book. Almost a mystery, since you’re only being given the barest essentials, and after the fact. Simply brilliant book.

    Reply
  5. Stacey Cochran

    Cormac McCarthyThe Road

    This was an airport-bookstore pickup. What grabbed me right away was the setting, the voice, and the combination of this father alone with his young son in a completely hostile post-apocolyptic world.

    The combo of tenderness and compassion in the face of complete brutality and a world completely lacking compassion… that’s the heart of the story.

    And it’s more suspenseful over the long haul than any novel I’ve ever read.

    Reply
  6. pari

    Oh, Allison,I can soooooooooooooooo relate and I’ve only got two children and a new dog.

    I can’t even come up with the last good book I read . . .

    Boy do I need a life.

    Reply
  7. Fran

    “The Unscratchables” by Cornelius Kane.

    Yeah, it’s anthropomorphic and it’s punny, but. . .darn it, it was good! He may have invented a whole new category — humorous canine noir. Seriously.

    First three pages? Setting the tone and character in the first few paragraphs, and then comes a grisly double murder. And the puns just never stop.

    But it was more than just a series of clever puns (or groaningly awful ones, depending on your love of puns). He deals with issues of race and power-brokering in society, and the effect media plays in controlling what people. . .err, dogs and cats, that is. . .do and think.

    Good heavens, Allison, when do you get time to rest?!

    Reply
  8. Terry Odell

    Compared to you, I’m a slug. Hubby’s out of town this weekend, and aside from working on my panel presentations for SleuthFest, a little grocery shopping, a little cooking (cool weather = get out the crockpot), I’ve been taking it easy.

    Last book I read:Mind Prey, by John SandfordSandford usually begins with the crime/villain, and I tend to be impatient because I want to see what’s going on with Lucas Davenport since I got to ‘the end’ of the last book. This is the same for me with all series, though. I’m a character person.

    I’ve got the next In Death on request and can’t wait for it — there are positives and negatives about the way they keep you reading until you’re done — because then you’re done, and it’ll be too long until the next one.

    Reply
  9. Robin of My Two Blessings

    I just finished reading “the Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I think what I liked about it was that it was different. The narrator is death and he follows the life of a German foster child during the Hitler era. Most books I’ve read give the Jewish perspective, but this one gives you the German Perspective.

    It begins with a dialogue by Death which is hard to describe.

    Here’s the link to the first page.

    http://www.randomhouse.com/features/markuszusak/excerpt_bookthief.html

    I was engaged by Death’s narration and the content of the book. Interesting book.

    I love the In Death series and ordering “Promises In Death” tomorrow. Glad to hear you enjoyed “Strangers in Death.”

    Reply
  10. Becky Lejeune

    Last week I fudged and read ahead for my reviews instead of sticking to that week’s schedule

    Title: Silent on the MoorAuthor: Deanna Raybourn

    Why you recommend the book–what did you love most about it?

    I just love this series. It’s so lush and fantastic. They’re late Victorian mysteries that feature a spunky and headstrong heroine (Julia Grey), her quirky family, and her mysterious love interest, Nicholas Brisbane, a smoldering half-gypsy who’s essentially a PI.

    Then look at the first three pages. Did they start with action, backstory, dialogue, the protagonist, the villain, or what? Were you engaged by the content or the voice or both?

    The first three pages are mostly dialogue: Julia being reamed out by her older brother who doesn’t think it’s appropriate for her to go chasing Brisbane to Yorkshire. As this is a series, it’s hard to say specifically what engaged me in the beginning of this one, but it’s mostly anticipation of what follows. I get so excited when a new volume hits shelves and they end way too soon for me. I adore the characters and can’t wait to see what happens to them next. Overall both content and voice impress me in this series.

    Reply
  11. Catherine

    This is a bit of tease considering the US launch date is September 1…for some reason we (Aussies) and the UK get to read DEXTER BY DESIGN by Jeff Lindsay first.

    I read this yesterday with suitable relish.

    Why I love this book…I think half of my pleasure is realising that the dry, wry voice hasn’t weakened over 4 books.The twist of the anti-est anti-hero continues to entertain me with his interior world view shifting in ways that seem logical yet fresh…

    The first three pages does not present any new bodies.It does give you good insight into Dexter’s state of mind. This is about the half way point of the first three pages.

    ‘And so, Paris.Dexter trudges meekly along in the wake of the Good Ship Rita, staring and nodding where these thingsare required and occasionally offering a sharp and witty comment, like,’ Wow,’ and, ‘Uh-huh,’ as Rita trammels through the pent-up lust for Paris that has surged in her all these many years and which now, at last has found consummation.

    But surely Dexter is not immune to the legendary charms of the City of Light? Surely even he must behold the glory and feel some synthetic twitch stirring in response, somewhere in the dark and empty pit where a soul should be? Can Dexter truly come to Paris and feel absolutely nothing?

    Of course not. Dexter feels plenty. Dexter feels tired, and bored. Dexter feels slightly anxious to find someone to play with sometime soon. The sooner the better, to be perfectly honest, since for some reason Being Married seems to sharpen the appetites somewhat.’

    Reply
  12. J.D. Rhoades

    I’ve been lucky recently, so I have a couple of great ones to report:

    THE BLACK HAND by Will Thomas: this one is my introduction to the Victorian detective and former sea captain Cyrus Barker and his long suffering assistant Thomas Llewelyn. I’d heard that the latest movie version of Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be considerably more of a butt kicking man of action. They should have just done a movie about Barker, because he fits the bill perfectly. It’s huge fun.

    THE COLD SPOT by Tom Piccirilli: This story about a former hood gone straight who then goes back into the ‘bent life’ after his love gets killed by some bad guys is pure adrenaline fueled noir. Check it out.

    Reply
  13. Jake Nantz

    TIME BOMB by Jonathan Kellerman. I love this book because it starts In Medias Res, rather than a lot of backstory. There has JUST been a shooting at an elementary school, and Alex Delaware gets a call from Milo Sturgis to come help with the kids.

    And the plot starts rolling from there, as it should.

    Reply
  14. Allison Brennan

    Catherine, I never understand how that happens, either. My UK books have a slightly different (week or two) date from my US release, but other books I’ve read are released way before in one or another country.

    Toni, TRIGGER CITY is in my short TBR pile.

    Louise, I remember reading about that book and adding it to my wish list awhile back, and now for the life of me I can’t remember why or where I heard about it . . .

    Hey Becky, didn’t Deanna beat me in the Ritas? LOL. Glad that her current book is just as good!

    Oh, so today was just as busy and Sundays are usually my easy days . . . after church, I went to the grocery store (because I had no bread, milk, peanut butter or fruit–the staples of our house.) Then rush home, meet daughter #1’s friends at house, take six girls to the mall because of the Sadie Hawkins dance next week (most had their clothes–it’s a neon dance, so it’s casual, but they wanted accessories and my daughter wanted white van shoes because of the black lights); the rush back to Elk Grove to get her to volleyball practice by 5 (just made it) and take half the friends home (one dad met me at the school–yeah!) and then home to make dinner, and now I’m sitting at the computer for the first time since I posted this at 9ish this morning (pacific time.) Hubby will be getting daughter at 8 . . . I’m done.

    Reply
  15. pam

    I just discovered and devoured Charlaine Harris’ DEAD UNTIL DARK

    Loved it. Can’t wait to read the next 7 books in the series. It’s so fresh and compelling, and am tickled that it’s on HBO as TrueBlood, can’t wait to see that.

    What grabbed me? The voice, and the very different world, one where vampires exist and the heroine is a spunky cocktail waitress who can read minds, which makes it tricky to have any kind of real relationship.

    First three pages are mostly dialogue and setting up the world.

    Here’s a few tidbits,

    First few lines,

    I’d been waiting for the vampire fo ryears when he walked into the bar. Ever since vampires came out of the coffin (as they laughingly put it) two years ago, I’d hoped one would come to Bon Temps. We had all the other minorities in our little town–why not the newest, the legally recognized undead?

    ….You can tell I don’t get out much. And it’s not because I’m not pretty. I am. I’m blond and blue-eyed and twenty-five and my legs are strong and my bonsum is substantial and I have a waspy waistline…

    But I have a disability. That’s how I try to think o fit. The bar patrons just say I’m crazy.

    And he sat sat one of my tables–the vampire.

    …..”What can I get you?” I asked, happy almost beyond words.

    He raised his eyebrows. “Do you have the bottled synthetic blood?”

    “No, I’m so sorry! Sam’s got some on order. Should be in next week.”

    Plus, the book has suspense and a great love triangle.

    Reply

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