What I #AmReading: July 2017

by Molly Greene, @mollygreene

I love a good mystery, but I’m a picky reader due to impatience, a short attention span, and acquired proofing skills that make editing boo-boos and craft-type missteps leap out. If the author doesn’t snag me in the first few pages, I won’t continue. If they don’t hold my attention after that, I won’t finish. Plus, I’m always editing in my head as I read, a pesky addiction. Arggh!

Compelling characters, great writing, and an interesting story line make these distractions go *poof,* but can be hard to find. So I’m constantly watching for author recommendations, reading book reviews, and trying new authors. Here are a few titles I’ve recently taken for a spin. I’ll begin with my imperfect favorite.

Low Tide

This is Book #1 in The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series by self-published author Dawn Lee McKenna. Picture me ecstatic in the very first chapter of what proved to be a fab book overall. McKenna caught my attention immediately with an intriguing plot, great characters, humor, dialogue, excellent plot tension and writing.  Even though it was a cliffhanger, Low Tide is the best indie/self-published book I have ever read. I wanted more!

Alas, I felt that the next three books were not as excellent as the first. I read them all, though, because I was so connected to the characters I had to learn what happened …and you will, too. My hope is that the first four books are eventually edited down to two, with a solid conclusion for each. Watch for author McKenna – she’s a rising star!

The Woman in Cabin 10

I loved that author Ruth Ware opened with a dream, which most pros caution new authors against. This dream was intriguing. It made me read the next chapter, which was even better.

Pros: The plot is different and the writing good. Cons: Too much internal narrative, I prefer strong female protagonists and wanted to slap this one more than once, and a couple of plot points were not resolved well enough to have passed the scrutiny of my beta-readers (see if you can find them). Still, I enjoyed it and I loved the very clever twisty ending.

The Hearing

In this trad-published novel by author John Lescroart, I counted no fewer than four POV changes in a single scene, which I assume were not planned because the whole book wasn’t set up that way. My beta readers would have slapped me for that. There was also too much backstory presented way too early, all about uninteresting characters who seemed to have nothing to do with the plot. I found Lescroart’s narrative difficult to follow. Come on, Big 5. Don’t you have highly paid editors who handle that sort of thing? I didn’t finish, and I won’t be reading another by this author.

Make Me

This is the first of author Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books I have ever read. I am not typically a military character aficionado, and I abhor graphic blood and gore. Even so, halfway through this novel I asked myself, Where have I been? I was delighted, the way any avid reader feels when we find a new (to us) author with a big backlist.

Pros: The few sex scenes were few and extremely well handled. Minimal-to-no bad language, loved the Reacher character, and Child writes the best dialogue ever. Fellow authors, read Lee Child to see how it’s done. Cons: More blood and death than I typically want, but handled in a way that didn’t turn my stomach – until the end. I may grow weary of the gore mid-series, but for now I’m all in.

Readers, what’s more compelling for you: great writing, great characters, or a great plot? Which of these must be present before you’ll truly enjoy and/or finish a book? Which will you overlook if your most important choice is there in spades? I’ll start: for me, it’s all about the writing.

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15 Responses to What I #AmReading: July 2017

  1. Tower Lowe July 24, 2017 at 3:39 pm #

    Hey, Molly…love these comments. Have been a fan of Lescroat for years, but haven’t read this one. But I so appreciate what you say about the big five and editors… I have been reading Michael Connelly and frequently find typos and in some books editing or POV issues…yet we indies are a scrutinized by some readers as though we had the kind of bucks Hachette could spend on editing but doesn’t. As always, you are a breath of fresh air and bring much needed encouragement to all of your followers.

    • Molly Greene July 24, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

      I agree, Tower, indies are scrutinized and judged while the Big Five shrugs it off. Thanks for your comment, and it’s good to know Lescroat does better in his other books! Which other Big 5 mystery writers do you read and enjoy?

  2. Edita A. Petrick July 24, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    I don’t think you can have great characters without great – or at least good, solid writing. I don’t think you can have great plot without solid writing AND great characters. I really can’t see the three separated into individual categories.

    • Molly Greene July 24, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

      I get your point, Edita, well said! … but I have enjoyed great writing around so-so plots and wasn’t annoyed with the author when I finished the book. So writing still comes first for me. Every reader is different! Who have you read lately that made you wish the book wasn’t finished when you got to the end?

  3. Anne Hagan July 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    This was a breath of fresh air. Since I’ve been publishing, I’ve been loath to review any book ‘out loud’ that I didn’t completely enjoy, especially with fiction. You’re a brave soul Molly Greene.

    • Molly Greene July 24, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

      Awww, Anne, it’s easy to pick on the Big 5. Who are you reading right now??

      • Anne Hagan July 25, 2017 at 2:18 am #

        I’m reading a lot of books in a very specific niche iof the cozy mystery fiction genre as research for a work in progress and a series I plan to spin off of it. Can’t name names for the obvious reasons. I’m finding some great writing though and some where it’s obvious the author(s) are just cranking them out as quickly as possible.

        • Molly Greene July 25, 2017 at 9:28 am #

          I don’t read a lot of cozies, but Julie Mulhern is one author I enjoy in that genre. Check her out!

          • Bill G August 1, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

            I also love Louise Penny, who has been called a modern cozy writer, but I think she is much more than that, and I love her narrative style.

          • Bill G August 1, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

            PS, just finished “Mark of the Loon” and I
            Loved it! I look forward to continuing the adventure and family of the “sisters”!

          • Molly Greene August 2, 2017 at 10:29 am #

            Thanks so much, Bill! I also like Louise Penny. So many writers, so little time!

  4. KatD July 24, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    Great writing is a must for me. I could read two pages about a cup of coffee if done really well. I’ve been hesitant to read the Jack Reacher novels. After your review, think I will give it a go. Thanks 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

      I agree! …. and re: Reacher, I never had an interest. Boy, was I wrong! Full disclosure, though, I just finished my second Lee Child and there was a lot more sex. Very bloody, too. But the dialogue is incredible! I wish I had that level of talent. Read one just for that and let us know what you think.

  5. Pamela July 25, 2017 at 2:54 am #

    Hi Molly. I enjoy all genres, as long as they are character-driven. That said, the story needs to move along, though, and not be stuck in as you called it internal narrative. My favorite ‘mystery’ writer is Louise Penny (her first book is Still Life, and she uses the same characters and setting, for the most part, in her series). I’ve read a lot of John Lescroart’s books and enjoyed them, yes because of the SF setting (I lived there a long time) but also the characters and plot. I think you may have gotten one bad one- I haven’t read The Hearing. Lee Child – hmmm. I have read a few of his. They are hit or miss for me; the narrative moves quickly and is fun that way, Jack Reacher is a interesting character. But some books are much too violent for me. That said, I’ve enjoyed the two (Tom Cruise) movies based on Lee Child books. Thanks for the great reviews!

    • Molly Greene July 25, 2017 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Pamela! From the sounds of it I did get one of Lescroat’s less popular titles, and I agree that Reacher is over the top violent. I skip a lot of it so my imagination isn’t overwhelmed. Now that I’m on my third Lee Child book, I agree, hit or miss. “Make Me” was great, “The Affair” was good, the one I’m on now is just okay. Still a great character though, that Jack Reacher. 🙂