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Why Short Stories Work for Me November 21, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Gentle Read, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

-Greg
Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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2016 Favorites – Top 12 Edition December 16, 2016

Posted by Dori in Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2016, Uncategorized.
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2016 was a book lover’s dream – I was like a kid in a candy store. Between reading and listening, I managed to finish a lot of literary fiction, and a few science fiction and suspense titles, but I have some catching up to do into 2017. Here are the books that I relished in 2016, in no particular order:

laroseLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a writer that I never miss and this book sums up what I love so much about her writing: devotion to characters, insightful commentary on American culture, family love and exploration of the mystical.

 

undergroundThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Deserved winner of the National Book Award, this book is a wildly creative and harrowing look at slavery and its legacy. A must read.

 

 

beforeBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Hawley, a screenwriter, deftly takes us through a horrific plane crash, exploring the survivor’s guilt and the investigation into the cause.

 

 

mynameMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This small book packs a punch – mother/daughter relationships, poverty, marriage – are all addressed powerfully and in Lucy’s voice – lovely and sad.

 

 

vegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
There’s no doubt that this is a weird book – it’s about a young woman whose choice to become a vegetarian impacts her whole family in tragic ways – but it’s also both mesmerizing and beautiful.

 

 

queenQueen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Chee’s historical epic about a 19th century American who becomes a famous Parisian courtesan and opera singer envelops and transports you.

 

 

commonCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
This is my first Patchett novel and I may have to read her earlier books based on this one – who doesn’t love a book about a dysfunctional family that sucks you in and doesn’t let go?

 

 

multipleMultiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Zambra is a Chilean author and his books often deal with memory and choice within the framework of Chile’s recent authoritarian history. This one’s in the form of a multiple choice test

 

 

goldenThe Golden Age by Joan London
Maybe my favorite of all, London’s look at how people deal with displacement in their lives takes place during the polio epidemic in Australia after World War II. It’s surprisingly sweet and tender and you’ll fall in love with the characters.

 

 

moonglowMoonglow by Michael Chabon
History, relationships, life, love, rockets! – all in Chabon’s signature style.

 

 

 

swingSwing Time by Zadie Smith
I haven’t quite finished Smith’s latest about two young brown girls growing up in London and the different paths they take based on family, race, class and culture, but I’m entranced so far.

 

 

darker

 

gathering

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I always like to dip into some great science fiction and I really enjoyed these first two in a series that take us to fantastic parallel worlds.  No. 3 is up next year!

 

BONUS CHRISTMAS BOOK:

fieldsThe Fields Where They Lay by Timonthy Hallinan
I chose this book for my Holiday read and I think I’ve found a new mystery series! It’s funny and clever and the mystery unfolded perfectly.

 

 

 

If` I could keep going, I’d throw these in as well: Debuts The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Yid by Paul Goldberg, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl, A Great Reckoning by  master of mystery Louise Penney, The Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

It’s a Suspenseful and Thrilling Summer! July 11, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Suspense, Thrillers.
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We each selected a book that could be described as suspense (lots of action in a short period of time and appeals to reader’s sense of unease) or as a thriller (a specific, often exotic, world that emphasize defeating the villain.) And then we discussed those books we picked! Ready? ‘Cause here we go:

Beth: Flynn Berry’s debut novel Under the Harrow is a fast paced thriller packed with unpredictable turns. The protagonist, Nora, takes a routine trip to the country to visit her sister, but upon arrival discovers her sister has been brutally murdered. The rest of the book uncovers secrets from the past as a grief stricken Nora tries to solve her sister’s murder.

Carol: In She’s Not There by Joy Fielding, Caroline Shipley’s life crumbles when her two-year-old daughter, Samantha is kidnapped on their family vacation in Mexico. Caroline’s marriage ends, her relationship with her older daughter suffers, and Caroline is vilified by the press for the perceived parental negligence that led to the kidnapping. Now, fifteen years later, Caroline gets a call from a young woman who says she thinks she is Samantha—and things tailspin once again. Though at times an emotional read, this novel psychological suspense is relatively free of the graphic violence often associated with suspense/thrillers.

Emma: In Darkness by Karen Robards, ornithologist Dr. Gina Sullivan is on a research expedition with other scientists on the island of Attu, Alaska. Gina is out on a lake in severe winter weather when she witnesses a plane crash. There is one survivor, James MacArthur Callahan (Cal). Gina rescues him, but danger sets in immediately. Together they battle the environment and countless enemies who are after Cal. I feel the cover of the book is a little misleading. This is not a light romance but an interesting serious thriller.

Sara: I read the book The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley. This is a story of two cousins, Arden and Rory, who have been like sisters their whole lives. They end up as roommates at a college neither girl wanted to attend because of the financial mistakes of their parents who own a restaurant together. There is a terrible fire in their dorm, both girls are critically injured and comatose, and one boy is dead. As police investigate the blaze, they begin to suspect that Arden started the fire. Her mother Natalie is sure of her innocence, and digs for details of her daughter’s life to find the truth. In doing this she finds she did not really know her daughter or niece at all, and that the girls knew more about the family secrets than they had ever let on. Told in the voices of Arden, Rory and Natalie this book is hard to put down and full of surprises til the very end.

Dori: In Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, a private plane unexpectedly crashes off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard shortly into the flight and there are only two survivors: a down on his luck painter, invited at the last minute, and the small son of the wealthy family who had hired the plane. What happened? As the National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI investigate the crash, we learn about the passengers and their backgrounds, trying to discover who caused the crash. There’s the head of a FOX TV-like media conglomerate, a man about to get arrested for selling arms to terrorists, an Israeli bodyguard and the painter, whose last paintings depict a series of disasters, including a plane crash. Hawley, a television writer and producer, keeps us turning the pages and delivers a completely unexpected outcome.

Steve: Velocity by Dean Koontz is a horrific thriller that finds small town bartender Billy Wiles drawn into a nightmare after finding a note under his windshield wiper offering an unwinnable 6 hour ultimatum. If he doesn’t go to the police, a blond schoolteacher will be killed, and if he does go to the police an elderly charity worker will die. Billy and his friend, who happens to be the sheriff, play it off as a sick joke, but he next day a blond school teacher is found dead. Things get exceedingly worse for Billy.

Megan: The Trespasser by Tana French is the sixth installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are the newest members of the squad and therefore are usually assigned the cut and dry cases. This seems to be the situation when they are handed a murder case that appears to be a simple lover’s quarrel turned deadly. However, as the pair digs into the details they become increasingly convinced that this case is just a little too simple. Conway begins to doubt her instincts as well as her partner’s intentions as the evidence piles up to indicate someone on her own squad is out to get her. Is she being paranoid or is there more to this case than meets the eye? This is another brilliant addition to the series. The psychological tension and suspense kept me up late into the wee hours. This book doesn’t release until October, so if you aren’t familiar with the Dublin Murder Squad now is the time to get started!

Lauren: Lydia Millet’s Sweet Lamb of Heaven finds Anna hiding out in a motel in Maine with her young daughter, Lena. They have left their home in Alaska and fled from Anna’s husband, an uncaring and increasingly dangerous man who has never shown the slightest interest in his daughter until he aims for a political career and begins his first campaign for office. Then he needs a trophy family and Anna and Lena find themselves on the run. Holed up in the motel with a small group of other guests and keeping constantly vigilant, Anna slowly realizes that she and the other guests may not have come together by chance at all.

Stacey: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood is what they like to call a “literary thriller” (in the library biz.) As the story begins, a small group of women have been abducted and taken to a remote location in the Australian Outback, had their heads shaved, and dressed in rough cloth to begin their punishment for promiscuity. As the women fight to survive harsh conditions, the tension builds around who’s responsible and when will they reveal their ultimate goal in holding these ladies hostage.

Next time? We’ll all be reading a Beach Reads book (ie something we’d be happy to take to the beach -or the porch!) Find something you’d like to read in the sun, or shade, just because it’s summertime!

enjoy!
Stacey

I’m Thrilled by the Suspense of it all…. in the Thriller and Suspense Genre! November 10, 2015

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Suspense, Thrillers.
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We kept the excitement going by moving from horror to horribly exciting – aka a suspense or thriller book! Se all our books were either: 1. a suspenseful book emphasizing danger faced by a protagonist or 2. a thrilling book set in a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, with an emphasis on the defeat of the villain and his conspirators. As usual, the list of what people read should have something for just about every reader -Are you ready to see which book appeals to you?

Maureen: When Nora decides to accept an invitation to attend her former best friend Clare’s hen (bachelorette) party after not seeing her in years, the ball is set in motion for what is sure to be a very strange weekend indeed in the chilling debut psychological thriller In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. A tiny select group of Clare’s friends gather for the November party at the remote, wooded summer house of party organizer, Flo, who herself seems oddly obsessed with Clare and overly concerned with everyone making sure this is the best weekend ever. As the partygoers drink, play games, and swap stories, long-buried memories are dredged up, secrets that people want to stay hidden are revealed, and emotions run high. Then the unthinkable happens – a horrific accident – that will bring all of the events of the past back to haunt those involved. A smart and top rate thriller that will keep you guessing!

Chris: See How Small by Scott Blackwood begins with three teenage girls finishing up their night shift at the ice cream shop when two men walk in, murder them and set the store on fire. All in two and one-half pages. That’s all the violence in this book which is more than fine with me. The rest of the book tells how family members, friends and the town mourn and grieve their deaths over the years. Wonderfully written and very unique: the first chapter is from the point of view of the deceased girls—Elizabeth, Meredith and Zadie. Alternate points of view join them throughout the story including one of the mothers, a witness, a possible suspect and family members. Just discovered Blackwood and plan on reading his other two novels: In the Shadow of Our House and We Agreed to Meet Just Here.

Lauren:In Mary Higgins Clark’s, The Melody Lingers On, New York City interior designer Lane Harmon is called to assist her boss in redecorating a condominium for a high profile client. The client turns out to be the wife of scam-artist financier, Parker Bennett, who disappeared two years prior after making off with billions of investor dollars. Did Bennett commit suicide or fake his own death in making his escape? Is he innocent of any wrongdoing as his wife believes? And could his son, Eric, who quickly charms Lane, be involved somehow? This latest book from the “Queen of Suspense” was not as enjoyable as some of her classics I remember reading and loving years ago, but loyal fans of her work may find it fun.

Carol: In In Wilderness by Diane Thomas, it is 1966 and advertising executive Katherine Reid has received a terminal diagnosis. She relocates to an isolated cabin deep in the Appalachian Mountains with few provisions, including the loaded gun she plans to use on herself. Once alone and surrounded by only nature, however, Katherine begins to feel better—until she realizes that someone else is watching her every move. Unstable twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran Danny is squatting nearby in a burned out mansion and he’s become fixated on Katherine. When the two eventually meet, both lonely and damaged and ill, they begin a passionate love affair–but it is one that won’t have a happy ending. Despite its creepy premise, this novel is a poignant and compelling read about PTSD, depression, grief, loneliness and mortality. I couldn’t put it down.

Emma: In Black-Eyed Susan: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberline it’s 1995 and 16-year-old Tessa Cartwright is left for dead partially buried with another victim of a serial killer. The convicted killer, Terrell Darcy Goodwin, faces execution after 20 years in prison. Tessa is convinced that the wrong man is in jail and works with Terrell’s defense attorney and a DNA expert to determine the identity of the victims and the true killer. The novel includes lots of twists and turns and an unexpected ending.

Steve: Hot Pursuit by Stuart Woods finds the wealthy and well-connected Stone Barrington back for another adventure. Stone is jet-setting in his new plane to Europe with the beautiful Pat Frank, the pilot that has been assigned to him by his insurance company, and they soon run into trouble. Pat’s stalker ex-boyfriend keeps showing up in all the same locations. Meanwhile, back in Washington Stone’s friends in the government are hunting three Al Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated the country. There’s not much depth in these characters, but the action is non-stop.

Dori: Vanishing Games by Roger Hobbs, is the second in a trilogy about a fixer, a criminal that lives off the grid and leaves no footprint. Introduced in Ghostman, “Jack” returns in this outing to help Angela, the woman who trained him, whose plan to steal sapphires from a ship in the South China Sea has gone awry. Only one pirate has returned from the operation and he’s hiding something that is far more valuable than sapphires. After she gets a threatening phone call from a mysterious man, she contacts Jack who hasn’t seen Angela since their last crime. After landing in Macau, together they evade gangs, governments and guns. It’s an adrenalin filled ride and takes us behind the scenes and through the ins and outs of criminal life. It’s bloody and graphic; identities are changed, self-surgery is performed and oh yeah, so many guns!

Megan: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne is a page-turner of a psychological thriller. A year after one of Sarah and Angus’s twin daughters dies, the couple and their surviving daughter move to an isolated island to begin rebuilding their lives as they rebuild the abandoned house on the island. Instead of finding refuge, Sarah finds herself living a nightmare when her daughter Kirstie begins claiming that she is in fact Lydia, the daughter they thought they buried. All their lives unravel as the family struggles to cope with what really happened the day their daughter died. Family dynamics and a slow building tension will keep readers desperate to know which twin survived. Bonus points for the creepy, isolated island setting!

Stacey: The Enemy Inside is Steve Martini’s newest novel featuring Paul Madriani a Southern California lawyer who’s taken on the case of Alex Ives, a young reporter being held responsible for a fatal car accident. The victim was high-powered D.C. attorney Olinda Serna, a woman with shady connections on both coasts. When more ‘accidents’ happen to people connected to her cases, the original car wreck takes on new dimensions. I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the fast-paced action, entertaining characters, and surprising twists the author provided.

Next time? We’ll be reading and sharing Holiday stories! If you want to read along, you’ll want to find a book that features any Winter Holiday…. it’s almost too easy, isn’t it?

enjoy!
Stacey