Friday Twitter Tips: Round-up of #Pubtips from Agents and Editors

All About Queries

Lots of GRAMMAR GURUS on Twitter. Still, sometimes we need reminding.

But, sometimes it’s hard! (See what I did there?)

Oops! She inadvertently spoiled the first Game of Thrones book, here.

Rant alert. I imagine getting the same questions/problems from queriers over and over is frustrating.

A very insidery look at book PR.

Ha! This.

This is depressing.

#PubTip Tweet of the Week

Previous Friday Twitter Tips:

#PubTips for January 22

Book Review – Longbourn by Jo Baker

longbournIf ever there is a novel that suffers from false advertising, it’s Longbourn. Promoted as Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, Longbourn has none of the wit of P&P nor the soap opera fun of Downton Abbey. I wondered about halfway through the novel why Baker even bothered to frame her novel around Austen’s classic. Then I rolled my eyes at such a stupid, rhetorical thought. She placed her servants at Longbourn because Austen inspired fiction is a lucrative market. Longbourn, as good as it is, wouldn’t have received half the press it did if it was a standalone novel about servants in Regency England. And, that’s a shame, because Longbourn (★★★) is a good novel.

Let’s get the Pride and Prejudice connection out of the way: with the exception of one scene with Elizabeth, Darcy and Sarah, Baker’s fictional housemaid, Baker is true to Austen’s characters for the most part. Of course, Wickham is the bad guy, made even worse at Baker’s fingertips. However, making these characters ones we know and love distracts from the story she is telling, instead of illuminating it or making it more interesting. There isn’t enough of our beloved characters to make us happy and what there is makes us like them less. Though, if pushed, I suppose I prefer Baker’s vague characterizations to other fiction which paints their personalities outside of Austen’s lines.

But, to the story. Baker illustrates well the day-to-day grind of servants, from the backbreaking need to haul water, to the hand destroying work of laundry day, to the stomach churning chore of dumping chamber pots. Where Longbourn excels, though, is how disheartening working for others could be when you want more but have no way to achieve it, how trapped people of the lower classes were in their lot in life. Unlike Carson and Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey, these are not servants who take pride in their place in society. They are conscientious, do excellent work and do not shirk from responsibility but, Sarah especially, long to be free of other people’s demands.  At times, Baker’s prose strives a little too hard to be literary, but I appreciate her style nonetheless. She doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out, but instead trusts her readers are intelligent enough to figure things out.

Red John is dead. Long live The Mentalist.

the mentalist tunneyWell, thank God that’s over.

When I learned the first six episodes of season six would deal exclusively with resolving the Red John storyline, I assumed I would be posting weekly episode recaps. Then, the episodes aired and I found I had nothing to say. Kirkland was on his own vigilante quest? Shrug. Red John has a tattoo of three dots on his left shoulder? A pretty stupid tattoo for a serial killer who is supposed to be extremely intelligent. The Blake Association? Sounds like a homeowner’s association. Bertram is Red John? I’m supposed to believe Michael Gaston has the charisma to inspire such rapturous, love-like devotion of Lorelei, Rebecca and all the other acolytes who have done Red John’s bidding for so many years?

Turns out, no, I’m not. The Mentalist couldn’t resolve the storyline without one last feint, without trying desperately to illustrate Red John’s superior planning and intelligence. Sheriff Macalister is Red John. A character who resonated with absolutely no one, ever.

You know what? I’m not going to pick apart this resolution. Other people are doing it for me. I’m just thrilled The Mentalist is no longer saddled with overarching storyline. The original idea was good, great even. But, the execution was sloppy because it dragged on for too many years and probably because Heller didn’t have a clear idea who Red John was until a couple of years ago. Maybe if the Big Bad had been fully formed, the overarching story would have been, too.

But, it wasn’t and now it’s over. Good riddance. The Mentalist becomes what it should have been after the end of season three – a straight up crime procedural. CBS does these shows very well so there is no reason why The Mentalist shouldn’t keep chugging along for a few more seasons. As a long-time, dedicated fan, one who has flirted with abandoning the show but has stuck around despite major issues, I hope Heller and Company take this reboot – which is exactly what this is though no one has said the word – and make the show better. To do that, they need to do one thing, and one thing only:

Make the law enforcement professionals competent.

It has always been my biggest complaint that Lisbon, Cho and company couldn’t investigate their way out of a paper bag. They went through the motions and did the legwork, but it was always Jane who “solved” the crime. I get it; the show is called the mentalist. But, sometimes I wondered why the others were there at all. It seemed Lisbon’s sole purpose was to apologize for Jane’s actions, threaten him with consequences, but still let him do whatever he wanted. This was perfectly illustrated in “Red John” when she half-heartedly tried to talk Jane out of meeting Red John, gave Jane her gun(!), then gave Jane her car. Jane fulfilled his vow to kill Red John. Lisbon rolled over and failed to keep her promise of stopping Jane. The worst part was she didn’t even try. It is very nearly a complete betrayal of the character. I wonder how they will redeem her, or if they will brush Lisbon’s failure under the rug and instead focus on Jane’s new life. For Lisbon, her failure to stop Jane should have very nearly the same effect on her psyche as Jane’s causing his family’s death did on his. But, I’m guessing it won’t. Why? Two reasons. One, this show struggles when it doesn’t focus on Jane. Two, it is easier to explain it away with feelings. The romantic in me would dig a good love story. The part of me that wants Lisbon to be a strong, independent female character would be pretty pissed.

I hope the new iteration of The Mentalist has a better balance of competence. I hope they give Lisbon the backbone they imply she has. I hope it takes longer than one episode for them to pull the team back together. I hope Jane feels the consequences of killing MacAlister for longer than one episode. I hope the new people they bring in aren’t just Ribsby and Van Pelt clones. I hope they expand the world beyond CBI and give the characters a life, friends and family outside of work. I hope Heller has talked with Robert and Michelle King, the creators and showrunners of The Good Wife, on how to write a procedural with rich characters and a rich world that is just as interesting outside of the case of the week as it is inside.

Writing ADD or, Melissa’s complete lack of focus

normal_tech_typewriterkeys

This month for NaNo, I intended to branch out, to write short stories in different voices, experimenting with tense, POV, stream of consciousness. I was going to rock it! What have I done?

Nothing.

Granted, writing 30 different stories in 30 days was a ridiculous goal, even for me who loves ridiculous, barely achievable goals. I should have known better since these days, I can’t even finish a blog post.

I’m forcing myself to finish this post instead of vacuuming the stairs. That’s how bad it has gotten. I’d rather vacuum dog hair off the stairs than write.

I had my version of a panic attack about this last night before I went to bed. What if I’m done? What if I have no more good ideas? What if I can’t ever start or finish another book? I almost got up right then to go write. Instead, I rolled over and went to sleep. See, my version of a panic attack is thinking about it, worrying a little, deciding I can think about it tomorrow, then sleeping.

Now, here I am, barely restraining myself from vacuuming.

I hate housework.

Housework over writing has got to be rock bottom.

When my husband asked me what was on my agenda today (isn’t he sweet to pretend I have anything resembling a professional agenda? I’m still in my pajamas) the first thing I said was, “the floors.” Then I realized how pathetic that sounded (though not as bad as yesterday when my big accomplishments were “cleaning the ovens and polishing the stainless steel”), I said, “A new story. I have to settle on one. I need a single focus, something I can…”

“Obsess over?”

“Exactly!”

He knows me so well. And, he still loves me. He’s a keeper for sure.

So, today, while I’m vacuuming the dog hair off the stairs, I’m going to focus on the first line of my new story. I’m going to hone it in my mind until it is polished to a bright shine. It has to be good enough to inspire me to write the second line, then the third, then the fourth. I think if I can get to the fourth line, I’ll be on my way. But first, the opening line. Maybe,

Vacuuming dog hair off the stairs always settled Melissa’s nerves.

On Writing – “The End” or, The Best Review I’ll Ever Receive

“The end.”

“What?”

“The end. I just finished. It was excellent. I really liked it.”

My husband isn’t a huge reader. Sometimes, he will spend the weekend with his nose in a Harlan Coben thriller he picked up at the airport, but the combination of reading business reports for a living and his increasingly short attention span for entertainment means fewer and fewer books capture his curiosity.  So, I’ve never pushed him to read my work.  But, I’ve said since I finished STILLWATER he can read it whenever he wants and, of everything I’ve written, it’s the one story that would be in his reading wheelhouse. “If you don’t like this, you won’t like anything I write.”

Last week, he asked me to send him the MS so he could read it on the plane home from Delaware. That night, when he told me he was 92 pages in and liked it a lot, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Before you ask, I’ll say it: my husband isn’t the type who would continue to read it if he didn’t like it. Nor would he tell me it was good if he didn’t think it was. That was part of my reason for not pushing him to read it. I didn’t want to put him in the position to tell me he didn’t like it. I think that would have been tougher on him to say than on me to hear. Part of me didn’t expect him to like it because he is such a tough customer. But, he spend the entire weekend with his nose in the iPad. Reading my book. Let me just say that again.

My husband spent the weekend reading my book.

I’m seriously getting choked up thinking about it and not just because he liked it.  I was always a little afraid I would never be able to share this big part of my life with him. Now, I have a new reader and critic who will give me a different perspective. Poor guy. He doesn’t realize what he’s in for.

Last night, I was playing that effing Candy Crush game when he said, out of the blue, “The End,” and gave me the best review I’ll ever receive.

Other Items You Might Be Interested In:

Stillwater, Texas Website

Read the first five pages of STILLWATER.

Read a deleted scene from STILLWATER.

Learn about the characters.

Sundays with Hitch on TCM

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) I spent most of the 2007-2008 school year watching Turner Classic Movies. Both of my children were out of the house and in school for seven hours a day and I couldn’t think of a better way to decompress after parenting an undiagnosed ADHD toddler for five years. My obsession was probably a little unhealthy. A few weeks ago, my husband asked me why I don’t watch old movies anymore.

“Because I watched every one I wanted to see.”

That isn’t an exaggeration. I will occasionally check out TCM’s schedule to see if there is anything I missed or an old favorite I want to re-watch. Occasionally, I’ll find one of the latter, but the former? I haven’t found one yet.

During that time, I tried to watch all of Hitchcock’s movies. Easier said than done. They weren’t all available on DVD and TCM played the same ones over and over, probably due to rights issues. When I did find a DVD of Hitchcock’s British movies, the quality was terrible. The sound was horrible, making it difficult to understand what anyone was saying. His early works are also very static, resembling filmed stage plays more than what we think of as movies. But, that was not unique to Hitch. Most films from the last 20s early 30s suffer from this restraint.

So, though I tried to get through those early movies, I found myself falling asleep more often than not, getting bored or irritated by not being able to hear. There are probably about eight to ten movies I need to see to complete the set. Luckily, TCM is having a Hitchcock festival every Sunday in September.

As far as I can tell, TCM has managed to get the rights to just about every movie. The two exceptions I can see are Under Capricorn, a historical drama staring Ingrid Bergman I haven’t seen and The Paradine Case, which I have and I’m pretty sure I hated it.

This Sunday’s schedule is excellent. Starting at 10 am (Eastern) Murder (1932), Rope (1948), Spellbound (1946), Marnie (1964), The Birds (1963), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Psycho (1960), The Lodger (1926), Blackmail (1929), and Frenzy (1972). I don’t have the time or patience to watch them all (but if you do, I recommend it!), but will save a couple to my DVR to watch next week.

What I’m WatchingMurder and Blackmail. When I originally tried to watch them, the sound for Murder was horrible and I think I fell asleep during Blackmail.

Movie I Wouldn’t Bother to Re-WatchSpellbound. Despite Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, I just didn’t care for this one. But, I plan to read the book it was based on so I might re-visit it after that.

If You Can Only Watch One – If you’ve seen Psycho and The Birds, then you should definitely watch Shadow of a Doubt. Excellent psychological serial killer drama.

“There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Every October, the local Angelika Film Centers celebrate Hitchcocktober, a mini- film festival of Alfred Hitchcock films.  Probably all of their theaters do. Each year, I’m disappointed because they schedule the same movies over and over. North by Northwest is almost a given. If not NxN, then Vertigo will be shown. The Birds and Psycho are heavy in the rotation, as is Rear Window. Hey, I get it. The Angelika is trying to pull people in. What better way to do that than to show films everyone is familiar with? I say use those films to introduce people to the lesser known films in his oeuvre. The way to do that? With a double-feature.

This year, to celebrate Hitch’s 114th birthday, I am going to schedule my very own double-feature Hitchcocktober.  Assuming the best case scenario the screenings will fall on a day with an extra week, that means five double features, or 10 of Hitch’s 52 films. Or, put another way almost 20% of Hitchcock’s work. Sounds like a good month to me.

Week 1: The Lodger (1926) and Frenzy (1972)

The Lodger is the movie that put Hitchcock on the map. Frenzy is, arguably, Hitch’s last good movie. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been able to get through Hitch’s last movie, Family Plot. Fell asleep both times.) Both center on a serial killer. Both have memorable Hitchcockian images – the shot from below through a clear floor of the Lodger pacing in his room and the potato truck scene in Frenzy. Frenzy is also notable as the first film Hitchcock made under the MPAA ratings, which allowed him to get in a boobie shot and film the murder more graphically than he would have been under the old Production Code. Showing these two movies together would make an excellent contrast from where Hitchcock started and where he ended.

Week 2: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Yes, the Doris Day/James Stewart version of The Man Who Knew Too Much is better known (at least in the US, because ‘Merica), but when you have seen both movies, only the most ardent Doris Day fans will think it’s a better movie. The 1934 version is leaner, faster paced and has the female in the hero role. Which is why it is paired with Shadow of a Doubt, a 1947 thriller about a young woman (Teresa Wright) who starts to suspect her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is a serial killer. Both movies are psychological dramas and end with a nail-biting climax.

Week 3: Rope (1948) and Dial M for Murder (1954)

Two firsts for Hitchcock – his first Technicolor movie (Rope) and his first and only 3-D movie (Dial M). The story lines are similar as well; both concern murder plots, one successful, on not. Rope is best known for Hitch’s experiment with 10-minute tracking shots as well as for being a flop. But, I think it is one of Hitchcock’s more daring pictures, not only because of the long shot but also because he pushed the production code boundaries with the homosexual relationship between the two main characters. Both movies have a constrained setting; watching Rope and Dial M for Murder is more like watching a filmed play than a movie. They are also interesting in that the two male leads play against type. Ray Milliand in Dial M for Murder  plots the murder of his wife and James Stewart spends most of the time in Rope advocating murder.  Other firsts: these were the first movies Stewart (Rope) and Grace Kelly (Dial M) made with HItchcock.

Week 4: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) and The Trouble with Harry (1955)

The two most comedic of Hitchcock’s movies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is Hitch’s attempt at screwball comedy. He only barely succeeds because his leads (Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery) were two of the best actors in the genre. I talked in detail about Mr. and Mrs. Smith here. It isn’t surprising that The Trouble with Harry was a critical and box office bomb. In 1955, no one expected Hitchcock to release an absurdest comedy about small towners repeatedly digging up a body. It was one of Hitchcock’s favorites, though. The failure of The Trouble with Harry would be a mere blip on Hitchcock’s resume.  In the six years following he released The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds.

Week 5: Rebecca (1940) and The Birds (1961)

The commonality between these movies is Daphne De Maurier. The former is a novel, the latter a short story. Besides being all around awesome, Rebecca is notable for being one of the few (if not only) book adaptation Hitchcock stayed true to. He was notorious for taking story ideas and bending them to his will. The Birds is a novella on my to read list so I can’t speak to how faithful Hitch stayed to De Maurier’s story. The Birds was slammed in the press but time has made it one of Hitchcock’s signature movies.

Well, my final list didn’t turn out exactly like I planned. But, as I started writing, I liked the idea of pairing movies from different phases of his career that held similar themes. Even though some of these movies might be considered obscure, they are all excellent. This is a Hitchcocktober movie festival I would change my plans to see.

What’s your favorite Hitchcock movie?

My post celebrating Hitchcock’s 113th Birthday.

My post celebrating Hitchcock’s 112th Birthday

Malted Milk Ice Cream

My 11 year-old son, Jack, loves ice cream shakes. Whenever we go to a restaurant with shakes, he gets one. Chocolate is his flavor because he is my son and we love us some chocolate. With as many shakes as he’s had in his life, and I’m sorry to say he’s had probably more than he should, he saw “Chocolate Malt” on a menu and didn’t know what it was. I’m not sure where he was when I made this Malted Milk Ice Cream a year or so ago, but my guess is I ate the ice cream so fast I didn’t give him the chance to try it.

Malted Milk Ice Cream

  • 1 Cup half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 Cup malt powder
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 Cups Malted Milk Balls, coarsely chopped

Warm the half-and-half, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, vanilla, and malt powder and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and whisk it into the malted milk mixture. Stir until cool over and ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, fold in the chopped malted milk balls.

NOTES:

  • Recipe from The Perfect Scoop.
  • The malt balls soften slightly as it sits in the freezer, but they retain their texture. The softening isn’t a bad thing; sometimes the feel and sound of the crunch when I eat a Whopper gives me the shivers. Does that happen to anyone else?
  • So, now you have malt powder and don’ want it to languish on your pantry shelf? Make these Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Pioneer Woman. OMG. Then join a gym, because you’re going to need to workout after eating all that yumminess.
  • Want a bit of malted milk overload? Make an ice cream sandwich from the Malted Milk Ice Cream and the Malted Milk Chocolate Chip cookies.

Book Review – The Prisoner of Heaven (Cemetery of Forgotten Books #3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

heavenSynopsis: Barcelona,1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city’s dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940′s and the dark early days of Franco’s dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

I immediately fell in love with Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind when I read it way back in 2005. I loved the language, the mood, the main character, Daniel, and the plot. It is a book I never tire of reading over and over. I wasn’t as enamored with its sequel, The Angel’s Game, only giving it three out of five stars. Unfortunately, I can’t remember specifically why I only thought it was okay and I didn’t write a review for it. Probably because it didn’t move me one way or the other, like its predecessor did. Which explains why it has taken me over a year to pick up the third book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven.

What I’m about to say is probably something I need to remember as I continue on my writing journey. Ready? Here it goes.

Not every book needs a sequel.

Yes, publishers love series. Readers love series. Some writers do, too. And, series are wonderful, if the world and characters are constantly growing and enriched. While The Prisoner of Heaven (★★) does add depth to one character’s back story, the flashback structure of the book was clunky as were the attempts to connect what happened in the past with what was happening in the book’s present. There was no flow to the story; it read like a forced attempt to get in back story to set up the next book.

What I loved most about Shadow of the Wind was the language and the mood. Ruiz Zafon painted a vivid picture of Barcelona, so much so it is high on the list of places I want to visit. That lyrical language was missing from The Prisoner of Heaven, as was the clear point of view. There were many times I felt an author intrusion in the narrative, which was shocking from a writer I had previously esteemed. Needless to say, I won’t be reading future installments of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and I can’t recommend either The Angel’s Game or The Prisoner of Heaven. Read The Shadow of the Wind, enjoy it, and pretend Ruiz Zafon’s attempts at making this wonderful, standalone book into a series didn’t happen.

 

“If you love Downton Abbey…”

9780062229311_p0_v2_s260x420 How many times over the last year have you read those five words in reference to movies, books, television shows, food, music, clothes…?  Heck, I even used it a few weeks ago when reviewing The Remains of the Day. The furor for Downton Abbey has taken over so completely that it is difficult to get away from reference to the show for even a week. Don’t take that as a complaint. I love Downton Abbey. I click on almost every article I see that references it. But, as with many of the moment comparisons, things get labeled Downton even though they only have a passing connection to the show, namely the time and place.

Based on a recommendation of a friend on GoodReads, I searched long and hard at Barnes and Noble for The Passing Bells (★★★). I found it, with the help of a manager, on a remote end cap titled, “The World of Downton Abbey.”  Published over thirty years ago, The Passing Bells is the first book in a trilogy that spans the war years in England (1914-1945). It is well written and the characters are interesting but I felt distant from the story. It didn’t engross me like I expected it to. There was little emotional resonance and very little focus on women. Most of the novel is from male characters’ points of view. When women were the focus, it was usually in regards to their relationship with men.  Now, I am not saying that is a weakness of the book. As a book about men and their experiences in World War I, The Passing Bells is good, maybe excellent. However, if someone picks this novel up expecting something like Downton Abbey – soapy, with lots of twists, turns and emotions as well as a focus on the gentry during the Edwardian and war-time – you’re going to be disappointed.

My biggest complaint with The Passing Bells is how the author skimmed the era. There was lots of information about a lot of subjects – politics and war profiteering, jingoistic journalism versus truth-telling, white feathers and shell shock, the pointlessness of the war and the ignorance and blindness of the commanders. But, the author didn’t delve deeply into any subject. I wish he would have written a trilogy about these people during this time. Instead, the next two novels move into the twenties, thirties and beyond with these characters and their children. Unfortunately, I am not interested enough in what happens to any of them to read the next two books.

9856011The Return of Captain John Emmett (★★) stared at me from the mystery shelves for months before I bought it. Same time period (just after World War I) and I liked the book cover. As you know, liking the book cover is sometimes all that is needed for me to read a book or stick to one. I also think my love of physical books stems from my love of beautiful or interesting book covers. Yes, book covers are available digitally, but when you “close” your digital book, the cover does not stare at you from the bedside table or coffee table. I take great pleasure is seeing a book I’m reading waiting patiently for me to return. I’m digressing here because I don’t have much positive to say about The Return of Captain John Emmett. The amateur detective didn’t have any particular personality trait that would single him out as a good investigator. As such, he made so obvious blunders any regular mystery reader will catch, prolonging the case and book a good 100 pages. Despite catching his mistakes, the reader won’t be able to figure out the killer or his motivations until the author dumps the info at the end of the novel. Her detective is so inept he has to have the killer tell him absolutely everything, to explain in detail information the detective was never able to ascertain. I am being too hard on the detective. It is the author’s fault.

One thing I did like about The Return of Captain John Emmett; the main character wasn’t sexless. The author and the character were open and honest about his sexual desires. Of course, this is a British man in the 1920s so there is an expected amount of restraint, but that is addressed at all was refreshing.

churchillSet in 1940,  Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (★) shares a setting (London) a genre (mystery) and a strikingly similar cover art style to The Return of Captain John Emmett. Though I thought Emmett was too long and the mystery didn’t quite work like I think the author intended, I can’t say it was poorly written, which I’m afraid is my charge against Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.  I kept reading it even though I didn’t want to, mainly because I was determined to pinpoint my problem with a novel that should have hit all of my reading sweet spots (plucky heroine, integrating historical figures, the London Blitz). Yesterday, I found it.

“Claire looked at Maggie. Maggie looked at Claire.”

Before I read that, I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Different writing styles, etc. But, the clumsiness of those two sentences put me over the edge.  I am gobsmacked that got past the author, the agent and the editor. I’m gobsmacked the entire novel was published, if I’m completely honest. There is a lack of clarity, depth and, like Emmett above, it commits the cardinal sin of mysteries by not giving the reader enough clues to figure it out themselves and resorting to telling the reader everything. Characters show up with no explanation other than the author needed to get one last conversation in. The three act story structure is completely missing.  The ending goes on and on and on. The characters’ attitude toward homosexuality is anachronistic. The chapters are chopped up into numerous short scenes of two or three pages. When and why chapters stopped and started was completely lost on me.  It is the quintessential 21st century novel, created for readers who can’t focus for more than two pages at a time.

These three books are each the first in their respective series. I will not be reading any of the subsequent books.

Just to show I can be pleased, I want to point you to two series that are, in my opinion, two of the best historical mystery series going. The first is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. It is set in England between the wars. While Maisie can frustrate me, and there was one novel in the series I did not like at all, Winspear is an amazing writer. The other series is the William Monk series by Anne Perry. Perry’s attention to historical detail and, despite my disappointment in her World War One series, I think her writing ability is unmatched. Granted, I did not like her World War One series, butWinspear’s next Maisie Dobbs novel will be released in March. It is probably time I picked up another Monk novel. Or, perhaps I will start Perry’s other series.