Suspense I'm reading:
Whew! Are you struggling as I am right now with the heat and humidity? In Vermont, we normally enjoy green, cool'ish summers, full of rainy days, sunny days and very often, a mix of the two in the same 24-hours. Not this year! This summer has been hot...really hot for our northern climate, and extra muggy too. I have to admit--this is my least favorite weather. This and the sub-zero temperatures that we often get in January and February. But then at least you don't feel guilty for not going outside! I'm definitely a 60s and 70s degree kinda girl and LOVE autumn and spring.
Despite the weather (or because of it?), I've been able to lose myself in some great suspense books lately. I just finished The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen. As you know, I don't do book reviews here on the blog, only recommendations. I really enjoyed this novel. It's historical fiction (as you probably guessed from the lovely cover) and I did a little blurb about it recently in my video newsletter. I found The House of Closed Doors to be a great mix of family drama, history, and mystery. Check it out for yourself via the author's website, on Amazon or your local indie bookstore.
I've just delved into Ruth Ware's, The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I first fell in love with Ruth's work when I heard the audio version of her book The Woman in Cabin 10. I thoroughly enjoyed it and when on to read more books by this author. This is my fourth Ruth Ware novel and I have not been disappointed!
The Death of Mrs. Westaway follows a 20-something woman, "Hal" Westaway who works as a (skeptical) psychic, following in her deceased mother's footsteps. When Hal receives a letter notifying her that her grandmother has died and that she is a beneficiary, Hal is perplexed. Her grandmother has already died, so clearly this letter is a mistake.
Still, she's excited (Hal has serious money problems) but also filled with unease. While this woman wasn't her actual grandmother, Hal journeys to the estate anyway. It's a dark, creepy place swamped with magpies--the perfect Gothic setting. :) There she meets her "family" a mix of dark and light characters, each with their own mysterious issues...
Have you heard of this book yet? Want to check it out? Learn more about it via the author's website, on Goodreads, or snag a copy on Amazon or at your local bookshop.
Suspense I'm Writing:
I have to admit something here and now: I've never been a fan of short stories. I don't like reading them. Just when I'm getting really into the story, it's done. I don't like writing them. Very often it's harder to condense a story into 2000-10,000 words than it is to flesh out a full novel.
But, I do love to try experiments. And one of my newest is playing with short stories in between writing novels. I wrote one recently called, Runaway Train, for a contest (the first I've entered in many years--still just as nerve-wracking as I remember!). And now I'm working on one that has a working title of The Mansion. (Original title, I know.) I'm learning some fun facts about slang of the 1920s, as both stories are set there--not on purpose, it just turned out that way. Here are a few of my favorite slang terms from the Roaring 20s:
What are you reading this week? Or what's in your #TBR pile that you can't wait to start?
Happy Independence Day! If you know a veteran or someone currently serving in the military, why not thank them this week?
In my own bookish version of this theme, I'm celebrating a couple of wonderful indie authors. Read the full newsletter here with book recommendations for two stellar indie authors, Kathryn Guare and Steve Robinson.
I love to meet fellow #bookworms. It's a lot of fun connecting with a stranger over a book that we've both enjoyed. It builds instant rapport.
"And remember the part where she goes into that old house? Wasn't that nuts?"
"Argh! I couldn't believe she did that! I wanted to hold onto her legs and pull her back."
What's especially humorous to me is the way that people tend to classify "suspense readers," or "mystery readers," or "thriller readers," in some very humorous ways.
"Well, she reads suspense, you know," whispers an older lady to me from behind a hand near her mouth.
"He's a mystery fan. Can you believe it? And he seemed so normal..."
"I wouldn't leave my dog at her house when you go away. She's a thriller reader."
Okay, I'm exaggerating. But doesn't it sometimes feel as though people who read other genres think we're weird because we love to read suspense, mystery or thriller books? "Why would you want to read about death and killing?" a woman once asked me at a book sale. "I want something that relaxes me, not makes me stress out."
The thing is that mystery and suspense and thriller books DO relax us. They're like giant puzzles that your mind works away on, providing a temporary escape from that truly stressful thing in life called reality. These types of books help us to put things in perspective, too. Kind of hard to feel so disgruntled with a nosy boss when the main character is being chased by the mob, right?
Suspense, mystery and thriller books also help us to problem solve. What would we do/have done in that situation? Where would we turn if that had happened to us? How can the protagonist make the outcome more favorable? What if he/she doesn't? What are the risks and rewards?
Best of all, most novels tie up the loose ends leaving us as the readers feeling good. These are a few of the many reasons that I love to read and write in the suspense and mystery genre. What are yours? Please share a comment.
You'll remember in my last post I was discussing the reasons that I don't like writing book reviews, and what I like to do instead.
This isn't to say that I don't like reading some book reviews. I find sites like I Wish I Lived in a Library and Kay's Reading Life and Rebel Mommy Book Blog to be great places to find new-to-me-books/authors to check out. Each of these reviewers does a fantastic job of writing good reviews. They also include just enough information about their personal life that you feel like a close acquaintance is sharing information with you on coffee break. Want a straight book review site for mystery and suspense reads? I recommend Mysteries in Paradise or Bitter Tea and Mystery, both of which use straight review format.
Even if they didn't particularly like a book, these reviewers make sure to point out its good qualities. They also state that the parts they didn't enjoy are because of their own reading preferences, not because they believe they are the end-all and be-all of book reviewers. I respect that very much.
Oh, and I'd be remiss not to send you to check out the clever and well-rounded book review site by writer/author/editor Beth Kanell, Kingdom Books. It's a fantastic resource for any reader who is a fan of mystery, suspense and great thrillers.
What book review sites do you rely on? Or are you an Amazon, Goodreads or LibraryThing-only type of review reader? Please share in the comments.
I'm a bit late for Women's History Month, but have been thinking about sharing some of my favorite women suspense authors with you here on the blog for some time. Today, we're going to go back in history and learn more about three authors who changed the literary world. They are: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Agatha Christie and Patricia Clapp. Like any good journalist, I'm going to cover the Five Ws: Who, What Where, When and Why...the last "w" being why you might want to pick up one of their books.
Who: Mary Roberts Rhinehart had an interesting start in the literary world: she became a writer because of financial need. This in itself might not be so surprising, except that she was married to a doctor. Apparently, the couple was in financial distress and Mary Roberts Rhinehart began to write and sell her fictional articles in magazines.
What: The author of 60 mystery books, nine plays, and many short stories published in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post.
Where: Mary Roberts Rhinehart was originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but later lived among homes located in Bar Harbor, ME, and Park Avenue in NYC.
When: She was first published in 1908 and continued to write prolifically until her death in 1858.
Why: Mary Roberts Rhinehart wrote books that evoked suspense and oozed atmosphere all without going into the gory details of a story. Her book, The Yellow Room, was a fascinating read and would be a great introduction to her work.
Oh, Mrs. Christie: what can I say that hasn't been said a million times before? Let's cover the five W's and see if we learn anything new, shall we?
Who: Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.
What: A prolific writer, Agatha Christie penned more than 70 mystery novels during her lifetime. She also wrote romance novels under a pen name (Mary Westmacott), many short stories and plays, too. Several of her books have gone on to become movies, and of course, her most famous characters, Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple had their own TV series.
Where: Christie was born in in Torquay, Devon, (England) and later lived in her beautiful "dream home," Greenway. (You can tour Greenway if you'd like!)
When: Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and was named dame in 1971. She passed away in 1976.
Why: So many reasons to enjoy Agatha Christie's books: one of my top ones? Because I have yet to figure out "who did it," and the motive both, a sure sign of a great mystery writer.
Who: Patrica Clapp was something of a mystery herself. She was born in 1912 and her first work was the novel, Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth.
What: Unlike the other two authors above, Ms. Clapp was not a prolific writer. She is credited with 10 published works, most of these children's books. I was introduced to her by a wonderful friend with similar reading tastes. Ms. Clapp's book, Jane-Emily, was probably my favorite read of 2017. According to her biography via Harper Collins, the author actually identified as more of a "theater person," than a writer, and worked in community theater for 40 years.
Where: Patricia Clapp was born in Boston, MA, and lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.
When: The author was born in 1912 and passed away in 2003.
Why: Jane-Emily is a Gothic-suspense that will draw you in from the very first page. I believe in today's classification system, it would be considered Juvenile Fiction, but I enjoyed it greatly. It's spooky and haunting with beautiful prose and, oddly, a bit of humor that somehow works perfectly.
Who did I miss? This is just a short overview of three of my favorite vintage female suspense authors, but who would you add to the list? Share you thoughts in the comments.
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