J is for Joe

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_6764Joe is the narrator of You, by Caroline Kepnes. He meets Beck in the bookstore where he works, and after getting her name from her credit card, Googles her.  He looks at her Facebook and Twitter. And then he starts to figure out where she’ll be so he can engineer a “chance” meeting. It gets creepy. Fast.

The thing is that Joe is an otherwise nice guy. Overly emotional and obviously a stalker, he also does his best to make her happy. And Beck likes to mess with men. She’s not a good person either. They’re not a problematic combination even if Joe was an ordinary guy.

My emotions were all over the place with this book, because while Joe is a bad guy, obviously, I started to see where he was coming from. Because it’s told in his point of view, I started to get sympathetic.

It’s masterful, and I don’t know how Caroline Kepnes did it. It made me think of this quote:

“When you really know somebody you can’t hate them.”
― Orson Scott Card

Believe me; I didn’t like Joe. And having worked in mental health, with people who’ve been in DV relationships and people who’ve assaulted others, I know that he’s wrong on so many levels.

But… the ability to get inside his head was a valuable experience. Fiction gives us that ability, even when it’s disturbing.

Do you ever find yourself sympathizing with the villain?

E is for Einstein

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

FullSizeRender.jpg-1In Watchers, by Dean Koontz, Travis Cornell isn’t sure he has anything to live for. When he goes to the woods to recapture a feeling of life being meaningful, he doesn’t expect much. While there, he runs into Einstein, a remarkable dog who saves him from what he believes is a wild animal.

Einstein is actually a lab experiment who escaped, a super intelligent dog. When he escaped, another creature escaped, one that wants to track Einstein down and kill him. As Einstein starts to trust Travis, he reveals his intelligence and gives Travis clues as to his past. They go on the run to avoid the other creature and the government, who will do anything to recapture him for further experiments.

The title comes from a passage in the book where one of the characters talks about how people are meant to watch over one another, and we all watch over those we love. It’s a wonderful novel about family and hope, and how people can change. Einstein is a catalyst for the two main characters changing.

Einstein is bright and amazing, but he’s still a dog, which is possibly one of the best things about him. The author doesn’t make him a human trapped in a dog’s body. His humor and wit is what I would imagine an intelligent dog would have. This was the first Dean Koontz book I read, back in the late 80’s, but it’s the one that’s had the most lasting effect on me.

When I was a kid, I wished I had an intelligent dog. Now I don’t wish that. I’m happy for my dogs to be uncomplicated. But I still love to visit with Einstein.



I is for In Death

Unknown-2JD Robb has written 53 books in the In Death series in the past 21 years.  That’s a huge number of books.  (Some of these are novellas that appear in anthologies, but it’s still impressive.)

The books center around Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in the New York Police Department, and her husband Roarke, multi-billionare businessman and former criminal. There are also multiple supporting characters that make regular appearances.

Each book centers around one or more murder that Dallas must solve.  As the series has continued, Roarke assists her more and more often.

I love reading these books, but I’ve also started studying them from a writer’s perspective.  If you’d ask me, I would have told you I didn’t think that a character arc could span over 53+ books, but I would have been wrong.

Dallas and Roarke have continued to develop, as a couple and as individuals.  Though the focus tends to be on them and their relationship, the other characters in the universe are interesting and often experience character growth of their own.  I love the fact that a married couple can continue to be the subject of a series; too often the curtain drops just after the wedding, but that’s not real life.  They argue, they compromise, they have past lovers, and yet they navigate it together.

Each story shares characteristics, but they’re not formulaic.   There are multiple series subplots, like Dallas’s past, and information about these is doled out over time.  It’s masterful the way Robb keeps my interest in these subplots.  She drags them out for just the right amount of time so that they never get stale, but also never turn into an info dump.

The books are thrillers with elements of romance and science fiction, and while the science fiction might not please hard-core sci-fi fans, they’re always a good story.

More than anything, I want the stories I tell to be compelling and interesting.  I think that’s the best rule for any author: tell a good story.

“Life is never as long as we want it to be, and wasted time can never be recovered.”
― J.D. Robb

The Lost Years- Book Review

I’m a long time Mary Higgins Clark fan, back to my teenage years.  She does great, suspenseful books with romance in them.  The Lost Years was no exception to that.  I picked it up at the library, but when I went to read it, I didn’t think the book jacket made it sound interesting, and it sat in my house for several weeks.  Not being able to get motivated to do anything productive yesterday, I picked it up and couldn’t put it back down.

This had all the classic Mary Higgins Clark suspense with interesting characters and a romance to round things out.  If you’re looking for a good read, I recommend this one!