Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Golden Oldies: Books that Do and Don't Stand the Test of Time: Review of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" & More

Nothing like showing up late for the party. I always feel like that when I pick up a Lois Duncan book at a used book store. Yeah, reading one of her books is usually one, full of dread party. Recently read I Know What You Did Last Summer, a chilling, suspenseful book without any gore. -- Guess the 1997 "blockbuster" movie wasn't a slasher movie ... even though I didn't see it.

The plot centers around four clueless teens who think they can bury a bad decision if they don't talk about it. Unfortunately, such decisions rise like zombies and develop a life of their own. -- No, Last Summer isn't a zombie story. In this case, someone has figured out their secret and stalks them, as he seeks retribution for a hit and run death.

Duncan has a lean style, but manages to tie up all the loose ends in a relatively short book. What didn't work for me: The characters didn't seem to grow. They remained much the same at the end of the book as at the beginning ... though they did give up their pact to remain silent  and face the music.  

What really worked for me was the way Duncan mixed flash backs to show the difference a year can make in someone's life. The opening scenes of panic hook the reader and attach them to the story ... as Jill, probably the most important character, must confront actions she'd rather bury in the deep recesses of her mind as well as a love she can't give up.

Duncan winds up the tension in the book by using different viewpoints to create a feeling of dread. Each chapter gives judicious pieces of information about the secret in flashbacks with the story unfolding in standard mystery fashion. The flashbacks also delineate the character of the teens.  

[Lois Duncan. I Know What You Did Last Summer. 
New York: Laurel Leaf, Random House, 1973.]
Trade ... though I should probably keep and study it

Read an Ellis Peters [Brother Cadfael] mystery set in modern times: The Will and the Deed.  The book was copyrighted in 1960 and had a nice plot/villain twist. But, today it felt unbelievable. Not only did the technology feel off to this Luddite ... but inflation made the amount of money involved silly as a motive for murder.

Trade ... though it'll probably end up with Friends of the Library

Inflation has influenced publishing. I've always wondered if larger/ longer books were a result of the higher prices books now cost. Like, the writer's cost is the least important part of a publisher's expenses.
This comment comes up because I again revisited Tamora Pierce's Tortall. This time: Mastiff, A Tortall Legend, the third book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. The hardback's so heavy it made my thumbs hurt, but still kept reading until after two AM to finish it ... even though I've read it at least three times.

The fact that I own the book in hardback tells you how good I think the book is.

Last but not least, I read Dorothy Gilman's Caravan about getting lost in the Sahara before WWI. The books a fascinating exercise in breaking the "rule" of telling a story. The revenge of the narrator is as downplayed as it's brilliant

I'll probably trade it since I'm trying to clear some room on my bookshelves.  

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Just what I need is an interruption in my writing schedule ... especially since critiques are starting to come in on "Troublesome Neighbors". But ... an editor asked me for a revision. Yeah, I'm going to do it ... even though only a token payment is involved.
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