Archive | May 2011

Caught

So, what does it take to make it to the cover of Writer’s Digest? I decided to find out. Off I went to the library to pick up a Harlan Coben book. To be honest, after reading the first chapter of Hold Tight, I thought, “If it’s this violent all the way through, I’m not going to read it.” However, he was just setting the scene, the way they do in crime dramas on TV. (In fact, it wasn’t as graphic as some shows I’ve watched.) I mention Hold Tight simply because it was so well written, I found myself wanting to read another of Coben’s books.

Caught was written just last year, so I was pleased to find it in our local library (after having contemplated purchasing it). Although I’m not quite finished, I wanted to write this week’s review before heading out-of-province.

From these two books, what would I conclude gives you a chance at becoming a featured author?

1. First lines like “I knew opening that red door would destroy my life.” (Tell me, don’t you want to read it already?)

2. Real characters, people who could be your neighbours–many of whom, of course, you wouldn’t want as neighbours

3. Taking the story in a straight line just long enough so the reader thinks she knows where it’s going, only to take a sharp turn when least expected

4. Characters and situations that seem to have nothing to do with one another skillfully woven together by the end

5. Enough description to paint a clear picture without bogging down the reader

6. True-to-life dialogue and relationships

7. Hours and hours of research

8. Enough hints so the reader can try to figure it out

9. Enough surprises that he never can–until the end

10. An ending that is cathartic without being unrealistically happy

Yes, Coben’s work definitely falls into the category of “Secular Fiction,” but as a Christian, I personally was not offended by the writing. Even though Coben’s books are about criminal acts, they are not described in extensive detail–not even in Hold Tight. The “off colour language” is truly kept to a minimum. The sexual content…minimal, even in the area of innuendo. If even a little of this content offends, I would not recommend these books. However, if you watch shows like CSI and NCIS, I think you will enjoy Coben’s writing.

Lewis

If you were repeatedly abandoned, could you welcome back the offender?

If you were abused over and over and over again, could you find healing?

If you never knew genuine love, would you recognize it when it was right in front of you?

Forgiveness and trust are not easy to come by. And, of course, they are the themes of many novels, including this one. The discovery of authentic love is also a theme Lewis shares with many other works.

I met M.D. Meyer at the Write! Canada conference last June. Thanks to social networking, we have kept in touch. I was honoured that she sent me a copy of her newest book Lewis to read and review.

Meyer has a heart for the First Nations people. Without judgment, she explores real issues that could as easily be biographical as fictional. This story could take place in any First Nations community–in any community. And that’s one reason it is so poignant.

The novel strikes a chord with readers. It’s almost guaranteed that we can see ourselves–or someone we know–in its pages. I care about the characters from the first page. And if I care, I’m hooked. As I read Lewis, I was not merely an observer; I was right there with them. Trust me…there were times I felt my heart racing and I had to read further.

Lewis doesn’t candy-coat the issues of abuse and abandonment, but it does offer real hope. If these issues sound familiar, I encourage you to read the book. If you care about someone who is facing these issues, I encourage you to read the book. If you are just looking for a good, character-driven story to immerse yourself in for an afternoon…Yes, I encourage you to read Lewis.

A Vision of Lucy

“Prejudice is just a quick way to form an opinion about someone without going to all the bother of getting to know him.” So says a key character in Margaret Brownley’s newest book.

Evidence of prejudice has always caused my blood to boil. And while A Vision for Lucy is, in many ways, an Old West romance, it is also a story about the consequences of careless actions and lifelong secrets…all stemming from prejudice.

Although I don’t necessarily delve into a novel seeking to learn a lesson or see myself in the characters, I often do. In ways, I relate to Lucy, the independent, oft outspoken protagonist. For me, seeing similarities between myself and one or more characters always makes for a more enjoyable experience.

That and those sneaky hooks that authors throw in to keep us turning the pages. I knew I’d have a tough time setting aside A Vision… when I came to the unexpected cliffhanger at the end of Chapter One.

That said, I must admit, as an editor, I frequently spot errors in the books I read. One such “error” caught my attention: Harper’s Bazar. Knowing the current day publication is Harper’s Bazaar, I went online to check it out. Sure enough, in the 1800s, there was no second “a”. Now, that’s an author who does her homework!

The accuracy of this one detail assured me that the other historical references were, in fact, true to the time period. I, like Lucy, am a photographer. I found it extremely interesting how Brownley wove in details about the entire picture taking process of the 19th century. Who knew the chemicals used in developing photographs were so dangerous? Not to mention the risks in getting that exciting action shot.

I’m a visual learner, but do not like to get bogged down by endless descriptions. Brownley adds just enough details to paint the picture for me without losing my interest. In my mind, I can still see the out-of-control stagecoach, the roiling rapids and the burning church.

The only complaint I have is that Brownley often repeats her characters’ traits and behaviours. This, I’m sure, stood out to me because I read the book so quickly.

A Vision for Lucy will always be special to me. It’s the first book I’ve ever read that was not already available on the bookstore shelves, an Advanced Reader’s Copy. How cool is that!

If you enjoy an easy-to-read romance with a fair share of suspense thrown in, look for the story of Lucy and the mysterious “wild man” when it is released in June.