Writer Wednesday – Jane Bennett Munro

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Jane Bennett Munro

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m a pathologist. Not a medical examiner. Just a general hospital based pathologist in a rural hospital. I was solo for 24 years. Now I have three partners. I’m 67 years old and semi-retired. I’ve done a number of coroner’s cases, have given depositions and testified before a grand jury, but I’ve been lucky enough to stay out of court. I served 8 years on the Idaho State Board of Medicine and was chairman for two years.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My books feature a female pathologist in a rural hospital, sort of like me, only smarter and more kick-ass. My first book, Murder Under the Microscope, won an IPPY award. My second book, Too Much Blood, came out last summer. My third book, Grievous Bodily Harm, is inpublication and should come out this summer.

…and what you’re working on right now.
My fourth book, Death by Autopsy.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Nancy Drew. Crawling underneath the Christmas tree to see if anybody had given me one for Christmas. My Friend Flicka. Black Beauty. Going to the bookmobile with my best friend to check out the Black Stallion books. Recently I bought those to give my best friend’s sister so she’d have them for her grandchildren; but I had to reread them all before I let her have them.

What are your three favorite books?
I can’t possibly answer that. There are just too many. I can’t just pick three favorites, but if I did, I bet they’d all be by Lisa Scottoline.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
One or two. I’m reading Karen McInerney’s Murder Most Maine on my Nook right now.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I
travel to a different world.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I do that all the time. It’s like visiting old friends.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Depends on who recommends it. Some people’s taste is way too different from mine and I know I won’t like anything they recommend.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do that all the time.

What do you look for in a good book? A meaty plot. Believable and likable characters. The next book in a series that I like. The newest book by a favorite author. I hate buying a book and finding out that it’s a bunch of short stories, or number three in a trilogy. I want to find a synopsis of the book on the back cover so I know what I’m getting into. And I hate books written in present tense.

Why do you write?
I always thought it would be a good thing to do after I retired. When I was in medical school and internship and residency, every time somebody was nasty to me I would threaten to put them in my book. And now, I’m doing that.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’m a pathologist, so I guess I’d still be one if I didn’t write. I love gardening, so maybe I could have a second career as a landscape architect, or something like that.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My work as a pathologist.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They love it. They think it’s cool. They brag on me.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
That they’re arrogant and can’t take criticism? Maybe some are. That’s to cover up their basic insecurity. I may be insecure, but I’m not arrogant. My favorite writer, Lisa Scottoline, isn’t either.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Breaking into the field and getting recognized. There are so many writers out there, especially in my genre, and getting accepted by a publisher is almost impossible. And now, with indie publishing growing like it is, more books are getting published than ever, so getting noticed in such a big crowd is ever so much worse now.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
One I can think of is putting too much backstory at the beginning of the book. It stops the action cold. I did that in my first book, and my editor jumped right on it. Another is putting in too much thinking by my protagonist. My books are in the first person, so it’s tempting to put in a bunch of reflections about happened in her past or what she feels about things. That slows the action down too.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Turning my books into movies. Heck, why not dream big?

How do you deal with your fan base?
Well, right now my fan base is mostly people around here, that I work with, go to church with, sing in the chorale with, do business with. I’m not well enough known to have anything to deal with yet.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
everything

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (HP4)

JK Rowling

Hardback

2000

My re-read of the series continues with book four.  Which I could not read in any comfortable position due to its sheer size.  I can, however, kill intruders with it, so please feel free to break into my house any time between now and when I return it to the library.

Actually, with that I will start with my regular ongoing JKR rant.  It’s like, she had immediate awesome success, and then her editors decided they couldn’t possibly ever edit her for content or length.  Just let her ramble on and on forever.  With this one, depending on your version (UK/US, Hardback/Paperback), you’re clocking in at somewhere between 650 and 750 pages.  For a children’s book aimed at 12-14 year olds (supposedly.  The first one is RL5 according to Schoolastic, who grades those things in the US.  If she grew with her audience, a year at a time, like she says… ).

Okay, so, book 4 starts with an unfortunate incident in which the Dursley’s fireplace sort of explodes, followed by incredibly awesome seats at the Quiddich World Cup.  And tents that are bigger on the inside (Ahem, this is also the movie that featured David Tennant – make that bigger on the inside thing be exceptionally awesome, please and thank you.) where they camped in glorious style.  And with Krum taking the snitch but losing the match for Ireland, the festive atmosphere turns un-festive when somebody summons the dark mark.  Voldemort’s mark.

Now then, in my argument over stuff that should be edited, that paragraph was 200 pages in the book and about 15 minutes max in the movie.  Not that much happened for 200 pages.  But hey, we’re a quarter of the way through the book and haven’t made it to Hogwarts yet.

At Hogwarts, we finally get another sorting ceremony (oddly enough, because none of the characters of the new class seem to matter much), and we get a wonderful announcement that the Tri-Wizard tournament has returned.  Also, Mad-eye Moody is the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, and Snape glares and Draco et al are still annoying gits.

As the book progresses, Hermione is all up in arms about house elf rights and starts SPEW in an attempt to free them and get them salaries and better treatment.  It’s a bizarre side story line that, while it manages to further explain the differences in muggle/wizard lives, it does little to advance anything in the book.  But it wastes about 100 pages.  Honestly, I think it’s only in there because there wasn’t much going on for a lot of the year.

Between start of term and the Tri-Wizard Cup, we get a few faked homework assignments, a skrewt that blasts stuff out its rear end that affects human flesh, and an ongoing hatred of Harry Potter, extended because his name has come out of the cup.

We also meet Cedric Diggory, who is quite possibly besides Cho the only Hufflepuff student we ever really get to know.  And Rowling wonders why Hufflepuff gets a bad rap.

Blah Blah Blah.

Here’s the thing.  As a weapon or a doorstop, I’d give this book a five in a heartbeat.

But it’s a CHILDREN’s book, and it’s the size of Texas.  And *almost nothing happens*  We get one quiddich match (the cup), a dance at Christmas where Hermione *gasps* wears a dress because she’s a girl, and the Tri-Wizard where Cedric dies and Voldemort is revived with Harry’s blood.  Mad-eye turns out to not be Mad-eye and we’ve gone back to needing a DODA teacher come next year.

The story could have been told in about 300 less pages, and the book would have been better for it.

And the truth is that I was bored.  I read it quickly (just a few days while reading other books), but there wasn’t nearly as much quality for the quantity as that much of my time deserves.

All things considered (and the fact that the movie did this so much better – and I don’t generally like comparing movies and books), I’m only giving it a 2/5.  Moving on.

Book Review – Morpheus Road: The Blood by D.J. MacHale

Title: The Blood

Author: D.J. MacHale

Format: Hardback

Written/Published: 2012

 

Having just finished this book I sit here reeling over a fabulous story convinced that D.J MacHale is a master of his craft and am envious of his skills hoping to be able to manage eve a small fraction of his ability to craft a compelling story.  After waiting a very long time to get my hands on this book I can say that it was well worth the wait!  I was expecting a decent story and a conclusion to the story that I had been following along and had given a four page and three page rating to the previous two books The Light and The Black.  I expected something of the same caliber and was blown away!

For anyone who has not read the Bobby Pendragon series which MacHale so wonderfully wrote then this book will not hold the same impact for you as it does for those who have.  While this story seems to be a whole other world with new characters and a new type of fantasy with ghosts and demons MacHale brought the two separate worlds that are vastly different together and made them into one world.  The Morpheus Road series though not seeming to be such is a continuation of the Pendragon series even if Bobby never makes an appearance.

As the two worlds came together into one I found myself shouting and in disbelief and loving every minute of my reading as the story took on unexpected twists, as characters grew and changed causing the story to shift in ways you wouldn’t have expected.  This story isn’t a simple matter of looking at the bad guy and going he will be defeated by the good guys.  I know that statement may seem like a spoiler but it really isn’t because nothing is what you expect it to be!  I think that is what I love the most. I admit I wasn’t quite always in the jaw drop moments of surprise but all the same I didn’t expect all the things that did happen and it kept me interested and reading, even if I did get impatient to get to the end.  Over all, I want to give this book a 5 page rating but really the 5 pages are earned only for being so brilliantly connected to D. J. MacHale’s other books.  It is a long journey to get to that point but worth it in my opinion so I will compromise and give this book a 4 page rating and strongly encouraging you to start with the first Pendragon Book “Merchant of Death” and work your way through those books and then through the Morpheus Road books.

Book Review- The Missing Piece

Book: The Missing Piece

Author/Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

Format: Hardback

Published:1976

I was at the library the other day, and picked up this book without even looking at the title. It was a kid’s book, it was by Shel Silverstein, it had to be cute and fun and full of poems and such, right? Wrong. Assuming anything was my first mistake. My second mistake was actually reading it.

The entirety of the plot surrounds a circle that is missing a piece from it, and decides to go on a journey to look for said piece. It goes over mountains and across bodies of water, loses a race to a snail, and finds many wrong pieces along the way. Unfortunately, one thing it didn’t find was any sort of entertainment whatsoever. It was quite honestly one of the dullest books I have ever read. On top of that, it does not even end. Not even when it finds its missing piece. It just keeps going and going and going. I think I actually derived more entertainment from Grammar Basics For Dummies (no, I have not completely lost my mind). Overall, I give this book a 1 page rating. If you see this book, run in the opposite direction, and do NOT look back.

Writer Wednesday – Lauren Rachel Tharp

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
My name is Lauren Rachel Tharp.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m 28 years old, I’m hypoglycemic, and I’m a cat owner. Oh, and I’m a writer!

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m a freelance writer for hire. I specialize in taking “dull” topics and making them interesting. Copywriting.

When I’m not doing that, I’m working on short stories, poems, and my young adult novels.

…and what you’re working on right now.
At this exact moment, I’m pretty wrapped up in marketing The Ballad of Allison and Bandit, my first published young adult novel. It’s been very exciting! Next week I’m scheduled to speak to 900 teenagers… Which has left me both ecstatic and absolutely terrified. Haha.

After that, I’ll be working on my next young adult novel. I’ve already written down a ton of notes. It will be a while before it’s finished, but I’m prepared to jump right in.

And, of course, my freelance work over at littlezotz.com.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My dad used to read aloud to me every night. And then taught me how to read via comic books—mostly Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck. I adore Don Rosa’s Life and Times series.

He also read a TON of Nancy Drew books aloud to my mother and me during family time. We’d all sit around for a couple hours each night and he’d read them…

However, the first “real” book I read on my own was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I re-read it about once a year.

What are your three favorite books?
The Phantom Tollbooth will always have a special place in my heart. I’d put that at the top of the list forever. But the rest of the list… It’s always changing. I love the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, but I also love Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I adore Roald Dahl, but I also get a kick out of Sophie Kinsella. And Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is brilliant too! And if you throw comic books and graphic novels into the mix… my goodness! Forget it. This question is impossible.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I tend to read three books at a time: One fiction novel, one graphic novel, and one non-fiction novel.

Right now I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle as my fiction book, Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase as my comic book (manga), and Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook as my non-fiction book.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I…
…am about to fall asleep. But I try very hard not to!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Oh, definitely re-read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It sounds a bit mean, but it really does depend on who’s doing the recommending…

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Extremely likely! Haha. I recommend books to people all the dang time. Actually, I recommend all of the books I’ve mentioned in the previous questions!

What do you look for in a good book?
Good pacing. A dash (or a lot) of humor. Good characters and dialogue can get you far with me, even if your plot is simple.

Why do you write?
Because I must!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Extremely sad.
Or maybe a private detective?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Many of my stories start as dreams. So sleep is pretty important. Haha. I also use my own life as a source of inspiration. Write what you know, right?

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
There were a few worried naysayers when I first quit my day job to become a writer full-time, but as soon as I started making a living off of it, they were like “Oh. Okay!” Hahaha.

As Cyndi Lauper says, “Money changes everything.”

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
All of the stereotypes I disagree with have to do with liquids: “All writers drink coffee.” “All writers are drunks by night.”

No and no. I don’t drink coffee or liquor and writing is what takes up most of my time.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Getting noticed. There are so many writers out there. It’s hard enough to be just starting out, but you’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t stand out as well. And that can be very tough. And a bit depressing if it doesn’t happen right away.

Just hang in there! Persistence pays off.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Even professional writers make typos. I made one just the other week… I wrote “without further adieu” instead of “without further ado.” Ugh. I could have slapped myself silly for that one! Thank goodness I noticed it on time to fix it before it went to print, but I still felt horrible saying, “Oh, um, on that article I just turned in… I made a really stupid error that I should have caught when I proofread it…” Embarrassing.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d love to do something to help the homeless in my state. Homeless people and homeless cats.

And I’d love to do something for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles… I was born without my right hip and they built me a new one—free of charge! I owe them a lot. I try to make donations every year, but I’d love to do something more.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I actually do have a few people that write to me! Haha. That’s always been such a surprise to me, but I love it. I love hearing from people.

I basically write back to them, answer any questions they have, and just… do my best to be friendly? I’m not sure what else to say to this one. I’ve had a problem once or twice with people getting a bit too friendly/flirty, but so far I’ve been able to stop them in their tracks before things got out of hand (unless they’re peeping in at me right now and I don’t know it! Yikes!).

For the most part, it’s been just lovely. I hope to hear from even more people with the release of my new book, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. Some of my dear friends actually started out as pen pals. So you never know—if you write to me, we may end up being friends!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m allergic to soy. Which is in everything here in America—even gum. So, I cook most of the meals I eat myself.

Anything else we should know?
I am absolutely thrilled to be interviewed! I’m usually the one interviewing other people, so it was an absolute joy to be asked a few questions myself. Haha. Thank you so much!

Oh, and please check out my young adult novel, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. It’s available for FREE as an e-book on my author website at laurentharp.net!

Book Review – Persepolis & Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis:  The story of a childhood
Marjane Satrapi
Translation 2003
Originally published in france 2000
Hardback graphic novel

Marjane Satrapi was a child in Iran in the 80s when the government fell and war broke out.  This graphic novel tells her story in pieces, from being carefree and 10, attending a French-language school in Tehran, where she grew up, to being 14 and sent out of the country because it was the only way to keep her safe.  In the middle, she saw people that she love come and go as prisoners (one batch released, one entered), she went from regular clothes and a mixed school to all-girls, wearing headscarves.  She went from a child to a young teen who knew when to run to the basement bomb shelter and when the bombing was too close to make the run worth it.

There’s not much to say with this book.  It’s told in first person, through Marji’s perspective, and with the innocence of a 10-14 year old child.  That’s both good and bad, as we get little glimpses as to how these changes affected regular people, but only little glimpses.  Also, as a bonus, there is a two page intro that gives us Persia/Iran history, which I think is helpful.

Illustrations are simplistic black and white drawings by the author.

In the end, I’m giving it a four because of the glimpse of history it gives us.  If this were fiction, it’d only be a three.

———————-

Persepolis 2:  The story of a return
Marjane Satrapi
Translation 2004
Originally published in france 2000
Hardback graphic novel

Okay, after reading part 1, the graphic novel about the author’s life in Iran, I really wanted to read part 2.

And this is going to be a short review because I have so many issues with it.  First of all, the author’s life sucked and I didn’t see a lot worth reading in this book.  Her parents sent her off to Europe, and the woman that was supposed to take her in sent her to live with nuns.  On her own, basically, earlier than most of us could drive.

Honestly, the thing I liked about Persepolis was that I was learning about Iran when they switched from progressive society to covering themselves and segregating. The issue I had with Persepolis 2 is that I didn’t care at all about European Beatnicks and underage drug use or teens off on their own.  I wanted to slap the mother’s friend.  Oh, and there was no reminder of what had happened in the first book, this is literally like turning the page and continuing on (I know I make that complaint a lot, but authors need to remember that readers don’t always read their books one after another right away).

When Marjane finally went back because she was homesick, I was left with more questions than answers – after all, the author, according the the blurb on the back cover, was currently living in Paris.  If she was so hot and bothered to get back home, why did she leave again? Was she really that miserable?

If you read the first and thought it was the best book ever, pick it up if you catch it at the library.  But really, there’s no cultural value, nothing special to glean from this.  The art isn’t redeeming.

A very disappointed 2 out of 5 pages.

Book Review–Six Years by Harlan Coben

Title: Six Years
Author: 
Harlan Coben 
Format: 
Electronic / Kindle 
Published:  2013

 

Harlan Coben writes three types of fiction now.  He has his ongoing mystery/thriller series with protagonist Myron Bolitar which chug along in a workmanlike fashion.  He’s recently jumped on the “I want that money too!” bandwagon of Young Adult fiction by creating a series around Bolitar’s nephew.

Six Years is one of the third type of Coben book; a stand-alone suspense thriller.   I first became aware of Coben a decade ago when his third stand-alone novel (Tell No One)  topped the charts.     Since then I’ve read all of his stand-alone books and enjoyed them.     Six Years  would probably fall in about the middle, quality- and enjoyment-wise.

The book’s protagonist, Jacob Fisher, tells the story in first person past-tense.  You spend the entire book riding alongside him while the events unfold.  As with most other stand-alone Coben thrillers, it’s a tale of an average guy with some sort of heartbreak in his past.  In this case, Fisher’s soul mate Natalie dumped him suddenly to marry her previous lover, extracting a promise from Fisher on her wedding day that he never try to find her and her husband again.   Six years later (hence the title) Fisher sees an obituary for Natalie’s husband on his employer’s alumni website.    He attends the funeral hoping to see Natalie again.

When the widow at the graveside service is not Natalie but another woman altogether we fall down the rabbit hole with Fisher, looking for Natalie and looking for answers to a rapidly mounting pile of questions.

The thrill of these types of novels comes from the high curiosity factor.  I plow ahead to find out what happens next and what on earth is behind it all.   That means that the more transparent the mystery the less of a thrill the book is.      Unlike Coben’s best works, the mystery is fairly easily sorted midway through. But it does take a bit longer to suss out than the simplistic webs of his lesser works, so I’d say all in all Six Years is a strong middle entry.

What to rate it?  Well, that’s where things get as complicated as a suspense thriller plot.  I’d honestly give this book two seperate ratings.

If you are just reading it around home or on lunch breaks in dribs and drabs I’d give it three bookworms.

3bookworms

However…

Let’s say you’re on an airplane for five or six hours, in a chair on a beach under an umbrella or in the waiting room of a hospital while a loved one is having outpatient surgery.   In THAT case this is definitely a four bookworm book.    This is the kind of thing that works well for reading in those scenarios where you want to have your attention completely focused on something that compells you and takes your mind off the tedium but doesn’t require a huge lot of brainpower.
4 bookworms

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