Is it a novel or non-fiction?

At the recommendation of someone who is very dear to me, I am currently reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The person who recommended it couldn’t praise it high enough, so I had to find out if I agree with the praise.

I’m almost a third of the way through the story and I can see why it earned praise from this special person of mine. He doesn’t normally read novels as he prefers to learn while he reads. This means he’s very much a non-fiction reader. The Da Vinci Code is right up his alley as there are huge chunks of “reference book” type information (or there has been in the portion I’ve read). Hence, he felt as if the novel was teaching him something so he enjoyed the story immensely and didn’t see it as a complete waste of his time.

I, however, find that “reference book” information to be dragging the story down. I love novels! Although some of the information is interesting (especially the stuff on PHI), I feel as if the author is trying really hard to share his research results. Hey look, I found out all this information in order to write the book and now you have to suffer reading about it too!

Honestly, from my point of view, including obvious research material with the story was a bad idea as the story is jolted and interrupted by the research. I, for one, find it difficult to become involved in what’s happening and this is generally how I measure a good story. If the same information was dealt with less obviously, I think the novel would be much better. I’m getting to the stage where I’m seriously thinking about skipping over the research sections and just reading the story. If my overall experience suffers because of it…so be it!

I’ll do a proper review when I’ve finished the book.

Book Review: The Love Knot

The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it took me longer than usual to read this book, there’s a good reason for it. The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick is a historical romance and the author has used a style of writing that fits with the era of the story, which is the 12th Century. Because of this, it meant I had to read slower than normal in order to grasp the meaning of the words and take the story in. This sounds like a hindrance, but it wasn’t. Apart from the fact that, like everything, it only took a short time to get used to the writing style, I found that it gave the story more authenticity.

I have always enjoyed a good romance story and this was one of them. A true romance, in my opinion, has a real story behind it. Something that is interesting with characters that you would want to befriend in real life. I tend not to read the sloppy romance that has no substance to it and is filling with cardboard cutouts that are meant to be characters because those types of books are simply not interesting enough to keep my attention. The Love Knot was far from being sloppy and the romance thread was only a small part of the story as a whole. I really enjoyed it.

The thing I especially liked about this book was the history. I’ve always had an interest for castles and knights and everything that goes with it, so I didn’t start reading this book with no knowledge of the period. However, as the story progressed I found that I was not only interested in the romance blossoming between Oliver and Caitlin, I was interested to learn more about life in the 12th Century. It was clear that the details had been thoroughly researched by the author and that goes a long way with me. It helped me settle into the story and “see” the surroundings through eyes that have not been tinted with a rose colour, which so many medieval type stories are these days. The author showed the dirt, the hardship, the death, the pain, but she also showed how the people of those days were able to find contentment with what little they had. I appreciated that.

The Love Knot is a story worth reading. I recommend it and I’ll be keeping an eye open for more books by this author.

Book Review: Dragonfly

Dragonfly by John Farris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Last week I finished reading Dragonfly, but I didn’t have time to write a review until now.

On the front cover of the book Stephen King is quoted to have said that nobody writes horror better than John Farris. A blurb like this gives the reader high expectations, so I was a little disappointed to discover that the book isn’t even horror. If I had a point system for rating books, points would definitely be taken off for that bit of misleading information alone. So let me begin by saying that despite what you may have been told elsewhere Dragonfly is not a horror story, it is a mystery romance.

Now that has been clarified, let’s move on.

The opening scene grabbed my attention and the following scenes kept me interested. The story and characters are well defined. The author’s style of writing is readable; I felt comfortable and could easily become absorbed in what was happening, which I feel is important. I liked the characters and felt attached to them in some ways, so I was eager to learn what the future held for them.

My only real grievance with this book was that I felt it was much longer than necessary. To me, this means that the “middle” lacked something. Actually, it was the last quarter of the book that could have been condensed, in my opinion. I got to the stage where I went passed caring and eventually just wanted the book to end. There’s a difference between putting your characters through the wringer and just not knowing when to stop. What I think happened was that the author had so many threads to tie up that it took a lot longer than he planned to provide the necessary resolutions, which spoiled the book.

Despite that, the book was enjoyable and I would try reading something else written by the author.

Author Interview: Deborah Woehr

Today’s interview is with Deborah Woehr, the author of Prosperity.

Thank you for your time, Deborah. Tell us a bit about your writing background.

I’ve always kept a journal of some sorts since I was eleven, but I didn’t start writing fiction until after I turned 30. Since then, I’ve had one short story published and self-published three books, one of which was an anthology by various bloggers.

Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

There were two moments, actually. I tried to write my first story when I was 16, but couldn’t get past my intimidation over the blank page. So, I kept writing in my journals until I turned 30. I had lost my younger brother that year and was having a difficult time coping. My grandmother, who had been writing children’s stories for years, gave me a book entitled, What If?. The book contained a bunch of exercises. I maybe completed one of them before I started writing on my own.

Please accept my condolences. I will have to keep a look out for that book as it sounds interesting. Please tell us about your latest publication?

I published Prosperity in January 2008, a ghost story I had been working on for 10 years. It’s about a clairvoyant woman who must solve the mystery behind the haunting of a small town, while battling her own ghosts.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Prosperity. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a sequel, called Shades of Evil. In this story, Amanda must find out what happened to her estranged father in order to help find her missing brother.

It sounds like an interesting story. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Yes, although I make my characters’ experiences much worse than my own.

Good. I like to hear that! Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

With Prosperity, I recalled a story about a lynching that occurred in San Jose sometime in the early 1930s. I first heard about it from my eighth grade science teacher, who told the class about how the citizens could smell the sweet stench of burning flesh for at least a mile. That story obviously made quite an impression with me because it stuck. I had several false starts with Prosperity and didn’t come up with the lynching idea until the seventh or eighth draft.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I usually have a general idea, but have come to accept that it might change, depending on how the middle progresses.

Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one story at a time, unless I have a complicated character that needs a solid back story. That was how God’s Last Twilight was conceived.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It’s hard sometimes, because I’m obsessed with writing. I could spend all day in front of the computer, if I didn’t have a family and a job. I write for at least an hour every day. My writing sessions don’t always involve my books. I also write articles, when I can think of a solid idea for one.

I’ve read many of your articles and know you put a lot of thought into them. They are always interesting to read. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Get a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, a good dictionary and thesaurus, the Strunk & White style guide, and The Chicago Manual of Style. I have two shelves of how-to books on writing, but these are essential for every writer. Make a point to write everyday, so that you can strengthen your skills and develop your own unique voice. Don’t rely on family, friends or writer’s forum buddies for feedback on your work. Your best bet is to start a blog and write short stories and/or articles in order to give readers a sample of your work. Be sure to engage your readers in conversation so that they will get to know you.

That’s excellent advice. Now, here’s a question that always intrigues me, who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a wife, mother, Internet junkie and aspiring graphic designer. When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my kids, watching TV with my husband, or trolling the Internet for various information or artistic inspiration.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

Yes. I believe it comes from either lack of self-confidence or stress.

What are your writing goals for the future?

My first goal is to publish Shades of Evil by next year. Then I would like to explore different avenues of writing, such as copywriting.

I wish you the best of luck with your next publication. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?

I think that’s it. Thank you for interviewing me, Karen. It was a pleasure.

Thank you. It’s been wonderful getting to know you a bit better.

If you would like to find out more about Deborah or her books, please visit Goodreads.