Try a Chapter: Choosing my next Thriller

I usually have several books on the go, so I can read what I feel like at any given moment. Right now, I’m reading two novels, which is sometimes enough, but they’re both Fantasy, and they’re both buddy reads, and today I feel the need for something different, something just for me. And I think I’m in the mood for a thriller.

Fortunately, with my library being shut and purchased books taking a while to arrive, there are already three thrillers waiting for my attention: a paperback on my shelf and two ARCs on the Kindle. I think it might be fun to try a chapter of each and decide which one I want to continue with. At least, it should be fun for me, and hopefully it will be a bit entertaining for you, too. Here we go.

STILLHOUSE LAKE by Rachel Caine

I bought a used copy of this at a charity book sale before I’d even heard about it. It was published in 2017, and several people have recommended it to me. The only Rachel Caine book I’ve read is the YA fantasy Ink and Bone, (#1 in The Great Library series), and I enjoyed it, but haven’t continued on. So let’s see how this author goes with an adult thriller.

Oh, looks like there’s a Prologue, so I’ll read that and also the first chapter.

Prologue: Gina Royal
“Gina never asked about the garage. That thought would keep her awake every night for years after, pulsing hot against her eyelids.” What a good opening. I already feel I’m in safe hands here.
Gina seems to be living a normal life as a wife and mother, reasonably content if not wildly exciting. But we know that’s going to change, don’t we? And yes, she pulls up outside her house to find that a drunk driver has crashed into her garage, the destruction clearly a foreshadowing of the mess her life is about to become, as the damage reveals the dead body of a young woman hanging in the space only Gina’s husband ever enters. This is a good start, made even better by the high quality of the writing, not always a given with a thriller. I’m keen to read on.

Chapter 1: Gwen Proctor
Fast forward four years, and the point of view has switched from third to first person, as we follow Gina, who has now changed her name to Gwen. She’s on a shooting range, getting certified to carry a gun. Gina is now a very different person, not just in name. She is tough, paranoid, and blames herself for not knowing what kind of monster she married. Her only aim in life now is to protect her children from anyone who wants to track the family down, and she has good reason to think they exist. This is all great stuff. The air of tension and menace Caine creates is almost palpable.


Do I want to continue?
I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I can see this is going to be a superior and deeply engaging thriller, but also very intense. Do I feel like something so full-on right now? I’m not sure. Let’s try contestant number two.

THE FINDERS by Jeffrey B. Burton

This is due to be released in June, and I have it on my Kindle. I haven’t read anything by Burton before, so I’m going into it a bit blind, but I know it’s about a cadaver dog and her handler assisting the police with a homicide, and that sounds interesting to me.

Chapter 1
We’re following a woman named Christine, and wow, Burton does not want us to forget what she’s called. Even though there are no other characters here, Christine is named over and over again, where a simple “she” would do the job perfectly. Within a couple of pages, it’s starting to get really annoying. It makes the whole book seem amateurish. The viewpoint is omniscient, not my favourite, and there’s a lot of telling, not much showing. Overall, not a great start, but Christine dies at the end of the chapter, so in a way, this is really a prologue, too. I’ll go on to Chapter 2. Perhaps the writing will improve once the main character appears.

Chapter 2
We meet Chicago police officer Kippy Gimm, called out to the scene of a supposed suicide. She’s not named as often as Christine, so that’s a relief, and there is clearly a mystery here, but somehow my curiosity is not really aroused. I want to be on the spot with officer Gimm, feeling what she’s feeling, seeing what she’s seeing, but again I keep getting told instead of shown, which throws me out of the scene.

Do I want to continue?
Honestly, not right now. I will read the novel in the next few weeks, because I intend to review it, and maybe on another day I’d enjoy it more, but right now I’m just not interested. To be fair, it’s definitely suffering from being read straight after Stillhouse Lake, which sets a very high bar for the actual writing and immersion in the story. On to number three.

THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes

This is another ARC on my Kindle, due to be released in July. When I requested it, I read the blurb, but I’ve forgotten what it was about, so I have no preconceptions. Ah, another Prologue, so it looks like I get to read extra pages again.

Prologue: Emily
Here’s another third-person limited point of view approach, like Stillhouse Lake, and it feels comfortable. I don’t yet know who Emily is, but I get her feelings of surprise and anticipation at a sudden change in her circumstances, and I’d like to know more. A little hint of a twist at the end of the prologue tells us that things are probably not as rosy as they look. Not a hook exactly, but enough that I’m happy to keep reading.

Chapter 1: Emily
There’s no marker to tell us about time, but I’m guessing this is happening before the prologue, showing us what happened to get Emily to the point where we meet her there. She is auditioning and makes a mess of it, then gets fired from her job. We learn a lot about her and her life without ever being directly told, it’s nicely done and feels natural. Nothing very dramatic has happened by the end of the chapter, and we’re not up to the point the prologue starts yet. The threat/menace is faintly implied rather than overt.

Do I want to continue?
I do. It’s not as gripping as Stillhouse Lake, but also less stressful (at least so far) and much more what I’m in the mood for now. It’s a smooth, easy read, and for now I’m feeling quite happy to be eased gently into the action, along with Emily.

AND THE WINNER IS:

How do you choose your next read? Have you experimented with trying a chapter? How did it go?

WWW Wednesday

The last time I did this tag was October last year, so it’s about time for a repeat, don’t you think? I’m also very busy getting ready for an extended visit to help out my elderly parents, so it seems like an ideal week for a post that is short and sweet.

The WWW Wednesday tag is hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?

Interestingly, last October I was reading the first book in Sandy Barker’s Holiday Romance series. And right now I’m reading the second one!

I’m about a quarter of the way in, and loving it so far.

I’m also reading:

I’m liking this, but it’s not pulling me along yet. We’ll see.

What did I recently finish reading?

Loved, loved, loved this! 5 stars.

What do I think I’ll read next?

I finally started the first book in The Expanse series! So excited to be getting to this one, but I’m only a couple of pages in so far.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Happy Wednesday and happy reading!

First Reading Challenge 2020

I like doing reading challenges, but because I already have so many Writing Goals for this year, I was hesitant to take on a really difficult or time-consuming one. I needed a challenge that isn’t too challenging, if you know what I mean. But also I didn’t want to cheat and choose one that didn’t take me out of my comfort zone at all.

Enter Ramona Mead and her 2020 While I was Reading Challenge. Here’s Ramona’s take on this challenge:

My goal is to create categories that are challenging and personalized, yet not too difficult as to be extremely limiting or frustrating. I stuck with 12 categories to keep it realistic and accessible to people with less reading time than myself!

That sounded perfect. There’s also a Facebook Group and a Goodreads Group if I decide I want to engage with other participants.

CONTINUE READING

Slumping and Pleaping

What’s the opposite of a slump? This blogger needs to know. Because for the past month, I’ve been in a Reading Slump, but a Writing – something else. The opposite. I looked up antonyms for “slump” but it wasn’t helpful: ascent, increase, rise, success, blessing… none of them work.

So, in order to say what I want to say, I’m hereby inventing a new word. If it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me. From this moment onwards, the opposite of “slump” shall be “pleap” (peak level of enthusiasm and productivity). There. Problem solved.

Now, on with this post. Friends, I have been in a reading slump. In the entire month of September, I read two and a half books. TWO. AND A HALF. If you’re interested, here they are, with my ratings.

CONTINUE READING

Names and Labels

I’ve taken the title of this post from one of the chapters of Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

L’Engle makes a distinction between naming something or someone, and labelling them. Naming, she says, gives us wholeness and freedom to be who we are; labelling reduces us, controls us, limits us. “If we are pigeonholed and labelled we are unnamed.”

CONTINUE READING

Guilty Reader Book Tag

Today I’m doing my first book tag. This one’s been going around for a while and I don’t know who started it, but if you do, tell me in the comments and I’ll acknowledge them. There are ten questions about bookish habits that might cause feelings of guilt. This could be embarrassing!

  • Have you ever re-gifted a book you’ve been given?

Yes, if I know I won’t read it or won’t read it again. I always hang onto them for a while before re-gifting, but if I think someone else will enjoy the book, I’ll pass it on. Whether I’ll tell the gifter or not depends on whether I think it would hurt their feelings, but I don’t feel guilty about it. It would never bother me if someone re-gifted a book I’d given them – pass the books around, I say. Guilt level: zero.

  • Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

Okay, second question, first twinge of guilt. I did this quite a lot in college. I minored in literature, but I really didn’t like many of the books chosen by my lecturers. I always started them, but the ones I truly hated, I gave up on quite quickly and bluffed my way through tutorials and assignments with the help of summaries and Cliff Notes. I never actually lied and said I had read the book, but I certainly implied it. I haven’t done it since, promise. Guilt level: 😞

  • Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

Yes, once, and it still haunts me twenty years later. I was taking a pottery class and I borrowed an expensive coffee table book about Japanese pottery techniques from an acquaintance, who has probably never lent a book to anyone ever again. I didn’t steal it on purpose – I just took a long time to get around to reading it and by then we had lost touch. She had moved to another town and I never found her again. This was before we all had mobile phones, you understand. I couldn’t even remember her last name. I kept that book for years – a silent accusation staring at me from my bookshelves – hoping the rightful owner might get in touch (she had my home phone number, but perhaps she lost it in the move?) Finally, I realised it was never going to happen and I donated it to a charity shop. Guilt level: 😞😞😞

CONTINUE READING THIS POST

How to Make me Pick up Your Book, Part Two

PART 2: GIVE ME THE PERFECT JOB

Once we’re past the cover (See PART 1: I’M A COVER GIRL) we get to meet the protagonist or The Main Character. I’m not fussy about the gender or age or even species of the Main Character, but I do want to know how they occupy their time, professionally or otherwise. If your Main Character performs one of these jobs, I’m much more likely to be interested in reading your book:

DETECTIVE

Yes, give me a good sleuth, professional or amateur, and I’ll give them a chance to dazzle me with their crime-solving abilities. But I’ll be sleuthing too, so don’t make them either too stupid or impossibly smart. Ideally, they should solve the mystery about half a page after I do. And please make your detective an individual rather than a copy of a hundred others. No more hard-bitten, hard-drinking, overweight, divorced middle-aged men, please. Please. Instead, give me an old lady in a care home, a child genius, a sentient spaceship. Here are two very different detectives that made me read every one of their cases:

HERCULE POIROT (from numerous novels and short stories by the inimitable Agatha Christie)

Well, naturally, mon ami. Poirot is quirky, sometimes absurd, but brilliant without cheating. His inspired guesses always have logic behind them.

CONTINUE READING THIS POST

How to Make Me Pick up Your Book

PART 1: I’M A COVER GIRL

What makes you excited to read a book? Is it the title, the author, the synopsis, the reviews? Maybe all of those things. But perhaps I’m just shallow, because the first thing that makes me say to myself, “I want to read that” is the cover. Yep, give me a cover I love and I’ll pick up your book. What do I love to see on that cover? I’m glad you asked.

Dear Author, if you want me to notice your book, put one of these on the cover..

Continue reading “How to Make Me Pick up Your Book”