New Video! February 2019 Book Haul

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I JUST post one of these videos recently? Well, yes. But everyone knows one can never have too many books! Right? RIGHT? Anyway, I picked up a few more books recently from my local HPB because they gave me a bed in back where I sleep now. Ha.

Also, special shoutout to Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton, The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, and You by Caroline Kepnes. I bought all of these over the weekend and I already had the video edited and uploaded. Whoops.

Now watch and tell me which books you’ve picked up recently!

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DON’T BELIEVE HER

Sue Grafton is one of the most respected authors today. She’s written the Kinsey Millhone series of books set in California. I’ve read five or six books in the series, which I found underwhelming. And now she’s making THESE statements? No.

“…I’d like to remind you that a book is a perfect gift.”

“One size fits all and no calories…”

BOOKS ARE NOT THE PERFECT GIFT. NO MATTER WHO SAYS SO. And signed books are meaningless in today’s world. The only positive from this post is that the books are free, but even then I wouldn’t force any book onto any other person.

Ugh. I’ll keep saying it until I no longer can. Books are terrible gifts. THE END. Especially books that have been on bookstore shelves for more than a year.

Do you shy Away From Reading Long Series?

I actually just read a blog post about this topic yesterday that gave me the idea to write this. I’d link to the post if I remembered the name. Oh well.

Let me just tell you what this other blogger said. She categorized a “long” series as more than five books. And basically said that anything more than that is just too long and fails to keep her attention. I disagree. Let’s not forget Harry Potter was seven. Just saying.

I mean, five books being categorized as a “long” series is a joke. That is a short series. A very short one. I mean, five books is probably only long to YA readers who read trilogy after trilogy. Followed by Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m not trying to generalize here, but really who thinks five books is a long series? Who? Another question. How many books are in your favorite series? Mine happens to have three, but when I start looking at more of the series I read I see a whole lot more books than that. Let me see. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series is into the 40s. And oh by the way, this is only considered one of the great detective series of the past half century. Jack Reacher is about to reach 20. Alex Cross is into the 20s. Harry Bosch is nearing 20 books. Alex McKnight is in the double digits. Jesse Stone is at 14. Elvis Cole is at 16.

See what I’m saying? These are not just random series I found on the internet. I read all of them and there are several more that I could name. But I think I’ve made my point. I know I don’t speak for every reader out there, but it does beg the question that if readers were turned off by long series, then why are so many authors writing them? Michael Connelly just released a new Bosch novel this week and I’m near certain that it’ll be a #1 NYT bestseller whenever the list updates. As is also the case with most of James Patterson’s books. And Lee Child’s. And Sue Grafton’s. And I know there are YA series that go on and on, as well.

The moral of this post is that I don’t buy into the notion that readers are turned off by long series. Not at all. There are way too many that sell quite well for that to be the case. But I’ll ask anyway, do you shy away from reading lengthy series?

Literary Characters who Should Die

ImagePhoto Credit: A Book Lover’s Diary

I love books. You love books. We know that. But we’ve also all read characters in books who we just wanted to push off the side of a cliff for any number of reasons. Don’t shake your head. Yes you have. Liar.

Anyway, why don’t I just start listing off the characters I’ve disliked so much that I wanted to dedicate an entire post to them.

Draco Malfoy

I actually have a friend who loves Draco. We used to randomly discuss HP and it was before I’d read any of the books and she banned me from ever having an opinion on the series. So what do you think I did, I only talked about the one character I knew she adored, Draco. Ew. What was she thinking. I HATE Draco. Seriously. Yes, I’ve only read the first book in the series, but I already hate him even more than before! The worst part is that she loves Tom Felton too. Huh? But really, Draco should just die. Like right now. I don’t have anything more to say about him.

Keller

You know those books you’re looking forward to reading and you end up being utterly disappointed? That was me when I read Hit Man by Lawrence Block. If you’re unaware, Lawrence Block is a Grand Master with the Mystery Writers of America. He has a large body of work and he’s won eight Edgar Awards. He’s the real deal. So imagine me when I found his series revolving around an assassin by the name of Keller. I thought I’d found a new author and series to read for years to come. Wrong. The book was so bad. I did finish, but man was it awful. Keller would assassinate a random person pretty much every chapter. He wasn’t funny. Likeable. Or anything but boring. Suffice it to say that I won’t be buying another of Mr. Block’s books and definitely not in the Keller series.

Kinsey Millhone

Do not yell at me for this. I am well aware how popular the alphabet series by Sue Grafton is. And I know that Kinsey is Sue Grafton. There have been 23 books written in the series so far, I’ve read letters A-F and S in the series. There’s a book for every letter through W. I’ve always read such raving reviews about her attention to detail and how great Kinsey is as a character. I just don’t feel the same way. At all. I’ve had the book for G on my TBR shelf for years. Years! I’ve started and stopped it twice! To me, Kinsey is awkward and mediocre at her job as a private investigator. She’s not as funny as she thinks. And she drives, at least in the books I’ve read, a Volkswagon Beetle. I mean, no. Just no. But what do I know, right? Not like her books are consistently #1 NYT bestsellers or anything.

President Snow

All you THG fans better feel the same as I do about this guy. Seriously, look what he puts Katniss and Peeta through. Sure, they defied the capitol in their first Games, but EVERYONE loves them! And then to personally threaten her family before she begins her Victory Tour. No. President Snow, go in the arena and eat some poison berries or shoot a fireball at yourself. That’s about all you deserve. I think Donald Sutherland is great as Snow in the movies. To be fair.

Okay, now I’d LOVE to hear about some of the characters you’ve forced yourself to read who you thought were ugly and disgusting and just bad. Tell me!

Novel Writing: Should your protagonist be autobiographical?

Photo Credit: Cinderella in Combat Boots

I’ve written extensively about the fact that my protagonist from my first book is me. He’s more funny and probably smarter, but he’s still me. I’ve also read blog posts and articles in the past that say the practice of creating a fictional character who takes after the author is not all that uncommon, especially when it comes to first books. Two authors who come to mind when I think of this practice are Sue Grafton and JK Rowling. Sue Grafton and her fictional California-based PI are one in the same. I believe, though I’m not checking right this second, that JK Rowling and Harry Potter share a birthday.

My reasoning for doing this had only to do with the fact that I felt it would make the story better. I wanted to put myself in Andrew’s shoes every step of the way during that first case. I wanted him to face some internal dilemma that couldn’t be seen from the surface. I wanted him to be real. And I wanted the reader to be able to relate to him. I have no idea how well I was able to do this in my first book, but it was constantly on my mind as those 21 chapters were written.

So now you know that Andrew Banks is really just John Guillen in disguise, but what about you? Have you written a protagonist who perhaps shares some characteristics with you? Or who maybe shares something like a birthday with you? Tell me!

Male or Female Protagonist: Why does it even matter?

male-or-female

This is one of those questions that really irks me. And I think it goes into the larger question of male or female author. By the way, I hate saying ‘male’ and ‘female’ because they are social and not biological terms, but it doesn’t make sense for me to say man protagonist, so I’m going to stay with the social terms for the rest of this post, but just know that I don’t like them.

I mentioned that this question is part of the larger question of whether or not you or I or whomever the reader is prefers books written by men or women over the other sex. If you happen to be one of those individuals who says, “I only like books by men. They tend to be better written with better stories.” you can just stop reading this post right now, because I do not fall into that category and you’ll find the rest to conflict with your tastes. But if you’re not like that, then let’s discuss the question a bit more in depth. Here is my question to you.

Do you prefer to read books written by men over those written by women, or vice versa? If so, why?

This would be my answer if asked this particular question.

“Is that a joke?” There is no hint of sarcasm when I say that this would be my response. It’s a ridiculous question that merits no response at all. I mean, let’s think about some of the very best authors writing today, no matter the genre. Stephen King. J.K. Rowling. Lee Child. Suzanne Collins. Mitch Albom. Veronica Roth. See what I did there? For every great writer today who happens to be male or female there is a great writer of the opposite sex. So for someone to sit there and say that men write better than women or that women write better than men is simply inexplicable. And there are so many more authors that I could have mentioned, but for the sake of this post chose to limit the list to a handful.

Now that that’s out of the way, why don’t we go into the titular question of this post.

Do you prefer to read a male or female protagonist?

I think some readers would say that women mostly write women leads and men do the same with men. Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your own personal preference, right? Don’t mistake this question for asking if you have a favorite author or two, because I definitely do, the question I’m discussing is whether or not your reading habits tend to involve more protagonists of a particular sex because you have mindfully made that happen.

You see, my list of favorite authors includes James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, Robert B. Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, and Marcus Sakey. You’re probably telling yourself that I just named six authors, and only one of whom is a woman. I did that on purpose because I hoped that you’d catch onto that. Yes, my favorite list of authors may only have one female, but let me tell you about the books on my shelves right next to me. I have several by Sue Grafton. I have even more by Karin Slaughter. I have all of the books Michele Martinez has written. I have a book by Tess Gerritsen. I have several by Karen Traviss. I could continue but I think I’ve made my point. Yes, my favorite authors happen to mostly be men, but my reading tastes include plenty of books written by women with female protagonists. I just happen to read what I read when I read it. I don’t log into my Amazon account thinking, “Oh, I can’t buy any books with female protagonists right now. They’re too emotional and clueless.”  And I hope no one else does that.

For example, I’m currently reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My third favorite book ever is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which we all know has Katniss Everdeen as the protagonist.

The point that I’m trying to make is that there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books with protagonists of a particular sex. And there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books written by authors of a particular sex. I understand that we all have our preferences, but there’s something to be said when you look at your shelf of 200 books and only a handful are written by either a man or a woman. There are bad books and bad writers, but they are absolutely not limited to one sex. So if you find yourself with far too many books with male protagonists and not so many with females in the lead role, I challenge you to go to your neighborhood Barnes and Noble or log into your Amazon account and a find a book with a female protagonist. If you haven’t read any of The Hunger Games books then I would highly recommend you take a look at that trilogy. If you happen to fall on the other side of the stick with books starring mostly women, then I challenge you to do the same thing and find a book with a male protagonist. The first in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson is Along Came a Spider, I’d recommend it.

It’s Andrew’s birthday….almost

That’s right, my fictional Houston area private detective’s birthday is coming up! He turns a ceremonial 28 years old on December 27! Most of you should know this because I will assume that you’ve read my book. You should if you haven’t so that you can at least celebrate him reaching his big day. It wasn’t always a sure thing once you get to reading about his first case.

Anyway, like great authors before me I’ve made the protagonist of my debut novel quite biographical. Just ask mega author Sue Grafton who Kinsey Millhone is supposed to be or ask JK Rowling if she happens to share a birthday with Harry Potter. I can’t speak as to how come these two specific authors did what they did with their protagonists, but I made Andrew Banks very like myself because I began writing shortly after graduation and had no idea if I’d even be able to write a book. So I put characteristics of myself into him. I figured it would make for an easier write and would force me to explore the reality of the characters and story I was creating. I think I was right.

In my completely unbiased opinion, I think he’s real and handles his first case in a manner that suggests he’s a rookie private detective.

So don’t join me in wishing him a happy birthday just yet! Soon!