Charlatans

I’ve known for a while that I wanted to try out Robin Cook, who is a fairly popular medical thriller author. So I checked out a copy of his latest novel, Charlatans, and, while good, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

Charlatans is, mostly, the story of Noah Rothauser, a surgical resident at a renown hospital in Boston. His career is flourishing until he finds himself tangled up in office drama. After the death of a well-known and loved hospital security guard, Noah develops a relationship with Ava London, the anesthesiologist during the surgery. When two more deaths happen on her watch within as many weeks, Noah finds it harder and harder to dismiss the nagging questions he has regarding Ava’s performance.

Meanwhile, Noah experiences growing paranoia as it seems like everything in his life is falling to pieces. And in his quest to find answers, Noah realizes how easy it is for people to present who they want to be in person, while truly being someone completely different.

Despite the name, I guess I somewhat expected Charlatans to be a little more like what I expect Cook’s other books to be–where the thriller part is due to medicine, and not so much a hospital drama about secrets. In my mind, I guess I was expecting house, but got Grey’s Anatomy instead (though, to be fair, I’m not quite sure I’ve seen a full episode of either show). Charlatans wasn’t bad, in fact, I enjoyed the book, once I got past my expectations.

It was quick paced and easy to read. My one complaint was that Ava London’s character felt very stiff. I’m still trying to decide if I think that was on purpose, because of who she is, but, even if that’s the case, I’m not sure it really worked. I get that she’s supposed to be anti-social, but she came across more like someone who learned English from a finishing school mistress and speaks with no colloquial flavor. In short, not very realistic, to me.

So all in all, it was a good book. Definitely interesting, the main theme revolving around how technology is shaping the newer generations. But, I’m still really interested in getting my hands on one of Cook’s medical thrillers. Maybe after Christmas.

Advertisements

Into the Wild

If you’ve ever done NaNo before, you know it’s wild. If you haven’t, I’m sorry.

We’re getting close to a week in to NaNo, and so far I’m caught up. I got off to a slow start with some long days that didn’t leave much time for writing. I steal as many moments as I can, but I really am most successful when I can sit down for an hour alone and just write.

But my story is progressing smoothly. I plucked names out of thin air, so I haven’t had to use fillers yet, which is pretty great. And even in these early stages, some of the upcoming unknowns are starting to hint at resolution.

I have not done any additional planning for the later portions of my story, which I’ll need to start doing fairly soon. Because although I’ve got something like 13 chapters plotted, those chapters will go by very fast. I never seem to be able to milk them for as many words as I want to. Oh well.

So to anyone else writing, we can do this. And to those supporting us, thank you. And the rest of the world, we’ll see you in December.

Code Girls

I had just been lamenting that the show Bletchley Circle was so short when Liza Mundy’s Code Girls came out. Code Girls is the untold and largely unknown story of the women who helped break German and Japanese codes during World War II.

Mundy begins by introducing several women whose lives the book will follow, showing how they received secret letters inviting them to secret meetings and were offered positions in code breaking. Many women, bored with teaching and anxious to contribute to the war effort, said yes.

Code breaking was used during World War I, but not to the same extend and to the same success in World War II, though the groundwork was laid for women to be involved, as some of the stars of World War I code breaking we’re female as well.

While not particularly the story of any one woman but a picture of the collective experience, Code Girls was a very interesting read. You really get a feel for the secrecy, for the pressure and importance of the work. Plus you get a little understanding of how code breaking is, and you see how hard it is.

It reminded me a little of Hidden Figures, and I could easily see this as a movie or even tv series.

All in all, it was a good book, and not a challenging read, as far as history books go.

Looking to November

Do you ever have something you have to do, and you put it off because it seems like such a monumental task, then you do it and you realize you had like 20 minutes of work left to do on it?

Yeah, that was me with the last bits of editing on my story.

When I sat down to do it, Friday, I guess it was, I was expecting to put in an hour of work, and still have more to do the rest of the weekend. I hadn’t looked at it in so long, I’d forgotten that I was nearly done. This meant the rest of my weekend was freed up to give it one more read through (though I’ll be honest, I only read the second half, the half I’ve been working on. I’m a little bored of reading the whole thing through). And it’s not awful. I like it a lot better than before. And even though I pasted all the chunks I cut into a separate word document, just in case I needed it again, I didn’t even really miss it.

With November just days away, my goal for this weekend was to wrap up this session of editing, and I accomplished that. Now, I’ll set it aside and let myself dive into a new project for a while, letting new ideas flow. Maybe after the first of the year, I’ll return to “The Town” (still just a working title, I think) and see if it’s gotten better or worse with age.

November, of course, is a special month. And for me, the easiest month for me to write. Something about the crazy and the solidarity of people all around the world doing the same thing I’m doing gives me motivation I don’t get throughout the rest of the year. It makes it the best time to get down a draft of something new. And, in case you haven’t noticed from my other posts about it, I’m excited for my project this year, even if it does seem lame that the general idea came from a dream.

It’s feeling fairly normal now to jump into a project with it only halfway planned, but I’ve enjoyed that method so far. It gives me just enough freedom to let the story lead itself (not that I can’t change things on the way, or even after the fact, as editing has shown me). But it makes the process easier, while still letting me enjoy watching the story unfold as we go. Maybe for a lot of people that doesn’t make sense, but it’s two different feelings, uncovering a plot twist during the planning stage versus uncovering one during the writing stage. It’s like being able to read a book that you wrote without knowing every detail before hand. It’s being able to make “what if?” statements, and having to wait to find out if you were right or wrong. And sometimes, you’re both.

Meddling Kids

The first thing to know about Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is that it isn’t your childhood Scooby Doo story, despite the title.

Meddling Kids is the story of the Blyton Summer Detectives Club, four teens and their dog solving crime and unmasking the villains. Fast forward 13 years and everyone has gone their separate ways, lives wrecked from the last case they solved. Or did they?

Andy Rodriguez reunites what’s left of the gang, convinced there was something more to the Sleepy Lake case, something they missed, and therefore left unfinished. When she finally convinces the others to come along, they find themselves in the thick of the most dangerous case yet, and it’s not just another guy in a mask.

Full of sarcasm, mystical monsters and some substance abuse, the Blyton Summer Detectives Club suffers from some serious PTSD, but they’re resolved to get to the bottom of it, no matter what it takes.

This book immediately caught my attention because of the comparison to Scooby Doo. From the get go, it seemed like it was going to be good.

The writing was fun, easy to read and Cantero kept the pace moving, even while developing his characters and setting the scene. In a unique mix of traditional dialogue and almost script writing, you go from observing everything in the scene to snapping your head back and forth between the characters. While different, the style worked for Cantero.

This book definitely isn’t for anyone who wants to believe in the innocence of their favorite childhood detectives. Let’s just say “jinkies” isn’t the expletive of choice for this club, and Scooby snacks aren’t the drug of choice.

But it’s a fun story, and a fun break from the “real life” detective stories about things that could really happen.

So if you’re looking for something fun to read, and nostalgia as a plus for you, be sure to check out Meddling Kids.

Failing in Fall

So, my last post about writing was a glowing review of how my September writing goals were, mostly, successful. And I set myself some goals for October.

And naturally I didn’t accomplish any of them.

First, I haven’t even really looked at my editing project, despite really wanting to have it mostly wrapped up by the end of this month. I also hoped to have my November project mostly plotted out and ready to go. On that front I’ve had a little bit more success.

I’ve plotted out the first 10 or so chapters, and I’ve got a fairly good idea of where my story is going. So, for anyone who cares to know, here’s a little sneak peek.

The main character and her best friend are playing in an abandoned house as children when the best friend disappears. He’s never found, and she gets written off and put in therapy.

Fast forward 10 years, and she’s still been trying to make sense of what happened to her friend. She’s revisited the building and researched it, and seems to have found an answer. The next time she visits the house, she disappears too. When she comes to, she’s alone in the same house, but in a world that seems darker, like it’s dying. Guards find her and take her to the king, where she finds out the world is dying, because it lost its magic. Ten years ago, another person came through and promised to find a solution. They’ve been waiting ever since. She determines it must have been her friend. She sets out to find him, only to discover he’s trapped as a slave to a powerful magician. To even have a chance to save the world, she has to save her friend first.

 

I haven’t quite nailed down how it ends. It may be that the hero passes on saving the world, realizing she needs to take care of herself first, and that not every problem is hers to solve. Maybe she and her friend will save the world and become heroes. Or maybe everyone will die and the world will end. It’s still early in the planning process, truthfully, and I like to let the story tell itself, even in the planning stage.

Additionally, I really need to take some time to pick out names. I don’t want to complete yet another writing project with a placeholder for a name throughout the whole thing. Once was enough for me.

I’ve got nine days left to get myself ready for November (as though I’m ever really ready. That’s half the fun). But, I just might do it, if I can find some motivation. And turn the TV off. The whole “writing while watching” thing is perhaps the single biggest lie I tell myself in life.

Endurance

Seriously, sometimes I think I majored in the wrong thing. From a young age, I remember always thinking it would be cool to be an astronaut. For now, though, I’ll just live vicariously through their biographies.

I was excited to see an advanced copy of Scott Kelly’s biography, Endurance A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery. It took me only a couple days to read through it.

Like many astronauts, Kelly got his start as a military test pilot, though the road to test pilot was anything but easy. Kelly had a rough time focusing in school, which meant his grades were anything but stellar. Kelly reflects on how Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, was crucial in inspiring him to put his mind to the task of doing well in school so he could reach his ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut.

Once part of NASA, Kelly’s main desire was to fly shuttle missions as the pilot or the commander. Once he’d had a taste of long duration space missions, however, he realized they weren’t so bad either. Kelly’s career culmination was a year-long mission on the International Space Station during 2015-2016. The mission’s main objective was to see how the human body reacts to such a long time in space. Kelly was also able to contribute uniquely to the study because his identical twin brother, also an astronaut, stayed behind on Earth, which meant NASA could compare and contrast data.

The story is told alternately between chapters talking about Kelly’s past–everything from childhood to college to early days at NASA–and chapters talking about Kelly’s year-long mission on the ISS. While it’s a little different technique, instead of starting at the beginning and working to the end, I think it works in Kelly’s case because many people reading his biography will remember the mission, and be anxious to get those behind the scenes glimpses. I think the mixture will inspire people who might otherwise skip to the end to read the whole book.

Kelly is able to write about real danger and emergencies, and write about real tragedies, in a way that captures, I think, the attitude behind so many astronauts, that despite the dangers, the payoff is worth it.

All in all, it was an excellent read. Not too technical and not over-dramatized, Endurance reads like a sit down chat where Kelly tells you his life story, and you’re anxious to catch every word. When this book hits stores in mid-October, whether you love biographies, science, space, or just real-life adventure, this is one book you should make sure not to miss.