Today marks the official half-year mark. I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the best suspense books I've read so far in 2018. Plus, I'm sharing a look at a suspense novel I can't wait to get my sweaty little hands on!
I'm not much for cozy mysteries, I tend to like things a little darker and grittier. And while Mister Mottley Gets His Man isn't entirely cozy, it is a fun read--definitely more on the light-hearted side. It was also one of my favorite reads so far this year.
The author, Ellen Seltz, does a brilliant job of keeping everything perfectly balanced. Like a just-right meal, the book has a lot of action, humor, extremely fun characters with lots of quirks, and a rollicking "who dunnit" mystery that I couldn't solve. Plus, since Ms. Seltz has a background in the film/theater industry, the book reads like a movie script (in a good way). Thoroughly enjoyed.
The Bullet, is a novel of suspense and intrigue. It's written by a VPR commentator, Mary Louise Kelly. It was eerie and fast-paced. The storyline follows a young college professor who discovers she has a bullet lodged in the base of her neck. She has no idea how it got there.
From that MRI, the young woman's perfect life starts to crumble around her. The harder she looks for answers, the more frightening her situation becomes. Excellent read! I look forward to more by this talented author.
I so enjoyed this quick read, The Yellow Room, by vintage author, Mary Roberts Rinehart. I can't believe that it's taken me so long to read one of this legend's books. Wasn't she named the "Queen of Suspense," before Mary Higgins Clark took over the title?
This was a great, gothic suspense story and had just enough spine-tingles to keep you flipping pages. Also loved the time period it was set in (1940s).
Listen to this opening paragraph:
"As she sat in the train that June morning Carol Spencer did not look like a young woman facing anything unusual. She looked merely like an attractive, and highly finished product of New York City, who was about to park her mother with her elder sister in Newport for a week or two, and who after said parking would then proceed to Maine, there to open a house which she never wanted to see again."
Already there are questions to be answered. Why doesn't Carol want to see the house again? If she doesn't, why is she opening it? What unusual thing is she facing? Love the hook.
All right, I admit it: I'm cheating here a little. This miniseries, And Then There Were None, based on the novel by the same name by Dame Agatha Christie, was a must-watch for me. In fact, it had been on my wishlist on Amazon for more than a year!
While the script deviates in some ways from the original book (one of my very favorite of Christie's novels), it was similar enough in the most important ways. The director did a great job of climax and tension, and the house and setting were completely atmospheric and just creepy enough to be delicious.
And a suspense book I'm looking forward to reading...
I am so, SO looking forward to reading this new thriller/suspense by Jenny Milchman. I recently learned about it's release from writer/book reviewer, Beth Kanell, who maintains an excellent site, Kingdom Books, that you should visit. Ms. Milchman and I were featured in the same post--her for this book and me for Shadow in the Woods.
"Fatso!" "Heifer," and "Lard *ss," were names that followed me through school hallways, the playground and even the classroom growing up.
"Why are you so fat?" a girl asked me one day on the playground. I mumbled something about being big boned and got out of there fast, cheeks stained red, our game forgotten.
Growing up as "the fat kid," was a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. My heart was broken over and over again when others--especially friends and once even a teacher--commented negatively on my weight.
It did, however, give me two gifts that I'm still grateful for.
The gifts that being "the fat kid" gave me
Firstly, it allowed me to feel complete empathy for others who were left out, picked on, or made fun of. Even after I went through my "transformation," in junior high and lost 60 pounds in about a year, I have never, ever lost that righteous anger I feel for the underdog.
Secondly, it brought me my true passions: reading great books and writing stories. When I read a book, I was no longer the fat kid. I was the hero. I was sometimes beautiful, always strong, and often funny. By putting myself in the place of protagonist, I worked through challenges and hardships. This helped me see some of my own problems in new ways. Or at the very least, helped me to see that other people had it as bad, if not worse, than I did. Their stories provided me with a sense of solidarity.
Stories were important to me. They offered me an escape as well as adventure, love, freedom, hope and power. They're still important to me for these reasons today. I'm guessing that's why they are important for most of us.
I've been writing for as long as I can remember. In my books there is often a theme of social justice or of the empowerment/growth of a particular character. I don't do this purposely. It comes from the way that I've always lived my life.
If I had it to do all over again, would I choose to grow up as the fat kid? If I said "no," then I wouldn't be the person I am today. And we don't get a chance to go back.
So, I'm taking the lessons that I've learned and using them to make my life richer. And I hope that along the way I've encouraged other misfits like me in ways that are real and meaningful to them.
Whew! What a busy few weeks it's been...busy but productive and exciting. First, the next book (formerly known as The Creepy Doll Book) has a real name: Let the Dead Rest.
It will be released this summer (likely mid-August) and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you. The awesome designers over at The Cover Collection are working on the cover for it as we speak (!) and it will be delivered to my developmental editor tomorrow.
Guys, I just have to say that writing and then putting a book out in the world is one of the most exciting things to me. I LOVE IT!!! Even when I hate it (like this morning when I was sore and stiff from sitting for hours in front of the computer editing--my very least favorite part of the process) it still rocks. I'm very, very grateful to be on this journey and for your support from near and far. Thank you, dear readers.
Now, more about the book...
I've created an alternate ending and my fantastic beta readers have so far been split right down the middle. What should I do? Should I include both endings in the book? Should I toss one and keep the other via gut instinct? Should I post the alternate ending only here, on the blog after the book has come out? Chime in via the comments and let me know what you think.
PS Here's a Little Something Creepy to Enjoy
This weekend marked the 52nd Vermont Maple Festival. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's been featured in several prominent U.S. magazines and draws thousands from around the U.S., and even the world.
This celebration of all things maple is one of perks of living here in northwestern Vermont. In the past few days I've discovered the bliss that is maple syrup dipped French fries (wow!) and met some wonderful "neighbors" at the local craft show where I shared a table with two other awesome Vermont authors.
For the past few years fellow Vermont author, Beth Kanell, and I have shared a booth at the Maple Festival craft show. This year we were joined by a third Vermont author, Lori MacLaughlin.
Beth writes beautiful poetry and historical novels for the YA crowd (her newest has just come out, The Long Shadow, and I can't wait to read it!). Lori focuses on fantasy and writes entertaining and adventurous books that are hard to put down. Her newest book, The Road Once Taken, has just come out on Kindle and will be available in paperback very soon.
And if that wasn't enough, I also got to finally meet the wonderful, witty and completely personable Vermont author, Kathryn Guare, last week as well. We've chatted online before but it was lovely to meet her face-to-face and talk shop. The hour and a half we spent discussing plots and exchanging publishing tips felt like 20 minutes!
It's always a pleasure to join forces with other local authors. Do you like to read books based in your area? Why or why not?
Tell me the truth: when you read a poor book review, does it make you want to run out and buy the book anyway, or cause you to have second thoughts?
Like art critics, I believe that book reviewers can hurt authors. While reviews are important (how else will anyone online discover your work?), I choose not to write them for a few reasons. Here they are:
3 Reasons I Don't Write Book Reviews
1) Book reviews say, "I'm an expert," and I'm not. I think that two people can read the exact same book and one will leave the experience in love and the other will be wondering why they wasted those hours of their life. Who am I to say, "yes, read THIS book," or "no, don't read THAT book"? Reading tastes are so individual that it's impossible to predict whether or not someone will love or dislike the book that as a reviewer you tell them they "must read."
2) I hate reading things I don't want to. Just the thought of having to read something makes my skin feel itchy and my legs twitch. I did loads and loads of that in high school and college. I don't want to "have to read" anything. This is also why I have never joined a book group. I tried and failed.
Book reviewers often have lots of free books coming their way and they are expected to actually READ them. Shiver, shiver. My reading time is so limited that in the few precious minutes I do have, I want to focus on something that I love. Reading is an escape. It's hard to "escape," if you're reading something that you'd rather not be.
3) Reviews can hurt. I nearly gave up writing books a few years ago. I allowed a series of negative reviews online and in person at book events to really discourage me. I thought that I sucked as an author. "Maybe I should just give up," I thought. "There has to be better ways to spend all this time and money than on writing books that I put so much of myself into, only to have them criticized and belittled. Maybe I should take up extreme ironing. (Guys, it's a real thing.)
Anyway, after a long time, a lot of reflection, prayer and introspection, I eased back into writing novels. But my point is this: critical words hurt. It doesn't matter if you're a baby beginner or a stalwartly pro. Creatives are sensitive creatures (some more than others). Putting your work in the world, the work that you've put your heart into, that you've spent hours upon hours on is risky. One too many barbed comments or scathing reviews take their toll.
What I Do Instead of Writing Book Reviews
Rather than writing book reviews, I choose to write book recommendations. The biggest differences?
a) I only write these about books I really enjoy and
b) I follow Mom's rule: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
With that said, though, I do like to write and verbally share book recommendations. Book recommendations are fun! I love making these and do so monthly in my newsletter for readers of suspense. I will also occasionally read something really good and then reach out to the author and ask if I can interview them here on the blog. I also often promote their work on Twitter or Facebook or a private suspense reading recommendation group that I'm a member of. It's a great way to share other authors great work, without writing traditional book reviews.
In the next post, I'm going to tell you more about some suspense reader review sites that I do enjoy. Just because I choose not to write reviews, doesn't mean that I don't like reading them...and enjoying the community that these review bloggers have created.
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