Book Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley
Patricia Highsmith

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve been wanting to read this book and I am glad I finally had the chance! I became interested last year when I read Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, 1941-1995 edited by Anna von Planta. Published in 1955, The Talented Mr. Ripley is the first in a five-book series about a sociopath who travels to Mongibello, Italy and trades identities with Dickie Greenleaf, the son of a wealthy industrialist. Herbert Greenleaf had arranged for Tom, a casual acquaintance of his son, to go to Mongibello (all expenses paid), hoping to convince his Dickie to return to New York.

The 1999 adaptation starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour received five Academy Award nominations. The original film was released in 1956 and stars Keeffe Brasselle, Betty Furness, William Redfield, Patricia Smith and Vaughn Taylor. There are several other adaptations and you can check them out here.

I tore through this book, considered a great classic mystery novel, which is both a psychological thriller and character study, framed by the 1950s scene of wealthy and directionless Americans hanging out in Europe. Although Tom is both a sociopath and a murderer, he is just that little bit of likable to make you feel sorry for him. He kind of reminds me of Joe Goldberg in the Netflix series You. An expert at the scam, he has a heightened awareness of other people’s traits and weaknesses and can talk his way out of almost anything. For the reader, the best part is how he does that because, at many times, you are certain it’s over for him. Highsmith explains: “His stories were good because he imagined them intensely, so intensely that he came to believe them.”

But mostly, however, Tom, at twenty-five, is lonely. He sees himself as a nobody and desperately wants to become someone else. Going to Italy was to be his clean slate, “the real annihilation of his past and of himself.” Tom’s sexual identity is also at play and this creates a tense, under-the-surface conflict. When Tom arrives in Mongibello, he immediately dislikes Marge Sherwood, Dickie’s neighbor, a young American writer who is clearly in love with Dickie. Are Dickie and Marge lovers? Tom can’t decipher the vague relationship, but his instincts identify Marge as a rival and he does everything to keep Dickie to himself.

I was both entertained and fascinated by Tom’s character and his continuous inner-dialogue because it shows his emotions and violent impulses when the people around him have no idea how dangerous he is. In many ways, he has incredible self-control, but readers know he is an internal mess.

Readers might think that the plot is unrealistic. I would disagree. If you know the show, You, Joe also gets himself out of many outrageous situations. That is what makes it so good. This is no different and even more impressive because it was written in the 1950s.

I recommend The Talented Mr. Ripley to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers, character studies and classic literature.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

Book Club Mom’s Short Reviews of Recommended Reads

Weldome to a new feature on Book Club Mom: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. I hope you’ll take a look!

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave: Hannah Michaels doesn’t know what to think when she reads a hasty note from her new husband, Owen. “Protect her” is all it says, referring, she thinks to his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. When Owen doesn’t return home from his chief coding job at a California software startup, and when police arrest the CEO for embezzlement and fraud, Hannah suspects that Owen is on the run. But why is Bailey in danger? With limited information, Hannah must decide whether to hide or seek out a hunch she has. Soon they’re in Austin, chasing down memories that lead to Owen’s secret and dangerous past. Here, Hannah faces a difficult and irrevocable choice, but she’ll do anything to protect Owen’s daughter. A fast, light and easy read about families and secrets, good for the beach or a plane ride.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: I liked this book that parallels the story of a young girl sent west on an orphan train from New York City in 1929 and a present-day Native American teenage girl who has struggled in the modern foster care system. I think Kline does an excellent job showing us how Niamh Power and these destitute orphaned children, both numb and frightened, must have felt as they traveled and met up with their matches, which were often far from perfect. In present day, Molly Ayer is a rebellious, Goth girl whose father has died and whose mother is addicted to drugs. Molly meets ninety-one year-old Niamh, now named Vivian, when she is assigned to a community service punishment for stealing a book. The two form a friendship as Molly helps Vivian sort through her attic and together they relive Vivian’s story.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: The Giver is a terrific thought-provoking middle school read, great for adults too. It is the story of a controlled society in which there are no choices or conflict. When Jonas turns twelve, he must train with The Giver and prepare to receive all the memories of love, happiness, war and pain. During his training, Jonas learns the hard truth about his community and its rules and knows he must act decisively to bring about change. The best part about this book is that every word counts. Lois Lowry is great at describing her characters and their community. She includes meaningful foreshadowing that leads the reader through a gradual understanding of what might initially seem like an acceptable way to live. She accomplishes this by revealing just enough details and we realize the facts just as Jonas does. The Giver ends just as you want to learn more. And thankfully, there is more to the story in Messenger, Gathering Blue and Son.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

The Library Book Selection Game

Hi Everyone! Well my blogging friend Priscilla Bettis jumped into the Read, React and Decide game and picked three random books off her local library’s shelves. Read the excerpts, see which one she decided to read and what she thought about it!

Priscilla Bettis

I tried Book Club Mom’s library book selection game! It goes like this:

  • Close your eyes and run your index finger along the book spines on a library shelf.
  • Stop at a random place and pull out the book.
  • Do this three times on different shelves (so you don’t get the same author), then take the books home.

You should probably check the books out before you take them home!

Read a paragraph from each of the three books in order to decide which book sounds the most appealing. The winner is the book you get to read. It’s a great way to try new genres or authors.

I read a paragraph from page 69 because of something I learned from the Kill Zone blog: Page 69 is past the intro where the author tried really hard to impress, but it’s not at the exciting climax, either. It’s just…

View original post 428 more words

Who’s That Indie Author? Richard Lyntton

Richard Lyntton

Name: Richard Lyntton

Books written: North Korea Deception, Book 1 in The Deception Series: Hyde Park Deception (Book 2); Leningrad Deception (Book 3 – April 2023)

Genre: Commercial thriller – spy thriller, political thriller

Books Published: From Cottage to Palace, This Was Our Malvern and Upton-Upon-Seven Recollections written by my aunt, Margaret Bramford.

Genre: non-fiction and local history royal memoir

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? I have always wanted to be a writer ever since a wrote a “cowboy epic” of about 40 pages, aged 8, in my primary school, London, UK.

I read a lot when I became a professional actor. I love John le Carré, Robert Ludlum, and Daniel Silva. In about 2005, I started writing North Korea Deception, which was based on real-life adventures as a Russian student in Moscow, serving as a captain in the British army, and working as a UNTV producer in Bosnia.

Do you write full-time? If not, do you have an outside job or other responsibilities? Between auditions, yes, I write every day, 2-3 hours in the morning after a 45 min walk along my local creek. I also spend 3-4 hours marketing and working on the other books I am publishing under Malchik Media (which means “Boy Media” in Russian. I have two sons, so I just made up the name.)

Where do you get your ideas for characters and plots? Probably 30-50% is autobiographical in terms of locations and experiences. But I also need a theme or topic I feel passionate about and use historical research to weave the above into a gripping story. I write thrillers, so there must be an exciting, nail-biting, and roller-coaster plot!

Have you ever written yourself into a story? Yes, Jack Steele, the hero in my series, is 30-50% autobiographical.

Tell me about your nonfiction projects. What subjects motivate you? I publish non-fiction (3 to date) in memory of my aunt Margaret Bramford. She wrote ten local history books about: a) my great aunt Florence who served as a ladies maid in the British royal household for thirty years, travelling the world with two Queen Elizabeths – The Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, (think Downton Abbey and The Crown (Netflix), and, b) local social history and biography memoirs from the Worcestershire and Malvern area in UK.

What kind of research and preparation do you do before you write? I read non-fiction books and watch documentaries on the subject(s) I am interested in. e.g. Leningrad Deception is a story based on President Ronald Regan’s “Deception Committee” during the end of the Cold War during the Reagan-Gorbachev period in 1989. I had never heard about or read about the “Deception Committee,” and found it fascinating to weave a plot based around this little-known part of the Reagan-Gorbachev era. I draft an outline of each scene before I write the first draft: POV, Date/time, location, characters, plot and most importantly, the “kick” – what propels the story to the next chapter?

What is your editing process? Do you hire an outside editor? Two things any author or indie author must spend money on – hiring a professional editor and a professional book cover designer. I go back and forth one or two chapters at a time with my editor as I write each draft.

How do you decide on your book covers? Do you outsource? I hire a professional book cover designer. Before I published North Korea Deception, I spent the afternoon in Barnes and Noble screen-shooting thriller covers and the info inside the cover. Then I reached out to some cover designers on LinkedIn and found a great fit.

How did you come up with the title of your latest book? Great Question. My thriller series must have the word “Deception” in the title, so that’s 50% of the job. The rest of the title speaks to the story location, or one of the locations – e.g. North Korea, Hyde Park, Leningrad etc.

What route did you take to get published? Describe your experience. I watched tons of videos on YouTube. David Gaughran’s FREE course, Starting From Zero is fantastic. I also purchased a couple of on-line courses on Amazon ads and Facebook ads.

Have you ever tried to get an agent? If so, what steps did you take? I tried to get an agent for many years and gave up. It might take two years to get an agent because most of them take weeks, if not months to reply to a submission or query. Once they sign you, you might wait another year for them to find a publisher and publish. The process – if you are lucky – might take three years. However, if you do it yourself, once you have a polished, finished manuscript, you can self-publish in about 6 months.

What kinds of things do you do to promote your book? Amazon ads, Facebook ads, my website, “reader regiment” newsletter, and discount promo sites are the main ways I use to market.

Have you ever had a book-signing event? Tell us about your experience. Yes. Local indie bookstores and Barnes and Noble are very welcoming to local authors in my experience. They like to have “real” writers in the store, that bring foot traffic and the human touch to books. They don’t seem to care if you are traditionally or self-published. It’s always a very positive experience for me but you must be “high-energy” and know how to hook your potential readers.

Have you taken writing courses? I did take a writing course many years ago and read every writing book I could find on writing when I first began about fifteen years ago.

Do you belong to a writer’s group? I did try once, but I didn’t find it helpful or useful.

Are you in a book club? I do book signings and talks at local book clubs. People are always very eager and pleased to have a real author!

Do you ask friends/family to read your WIP? I did used to ask a couple of well-selected and carefully chosen writer friends to read my first draft of book 1. Now I rely mainly on my editor for the WIP.

Name three unread books on your bookshelf. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson; The King’s Pawn by Lucy Hooft; Beyond the Cobblestones by Luisa Livorno Ramondo.

What is the last book you read? Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva

How many pages do you think a book of fiction/nonfiction should be? About 400pages – 90-100K words

What is the riskiest or wildest thing you’ve ever done? I once tried to secretly film General Ratko Mladic, and Dr. Radovan Karadzic, leaders of the Bosnian Serbs in Pale, Sarajevo, during the Bosnia war. I wasn’t a spy, I was filming a video diary for the BBC about life as a United Nations Military Observer in Bosnia. I got caught and my camera was confiscated but considered myself lucky not to be arrested or worse.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Writing, editing, narrating the audiobook, and marketing a book TO BE PROFITABLE!

What advice can you give to new writers entering the writing and publishing arena? Be very, very clear about your goals – do you just want to write one book and “be published” or do you want to write several books and make a business. Huge difference.

You gotta love the actual process of writing. You gotta START writing every day. You find a time that works for you, and you gotta do it every single day, or most days of the week. Find a great editor and a great book cover designer. That’s where you spend your money. Never pay a “publisher” to publish your book unless you really understand what is involved and what you are paying for. Writing is 35% writing and 65% marketing. Most so called “hybrid-publishers” do NOT do the most difficult part of marketing your book.

You gotta believe and know that people want to read your stuff! I told myself early in the process – I know there are people out there who will enjoy these stories – I just gotta find them.

Website and social media links:
Twitter: @richardlyntton
Facebook: Richard Lyntton Books
Instagram: @richardlynttonbooks
YouTube: @richardlynttonAuthor Hour with Richard Lyntton – I interview other authors about writing and publishing.

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

On re-reading books – children’s books read hundreds of times

To add to the ongoing discussion of re-reading books, here are some that we read to our children when they were small—hundreds of times!

When our kids were babies and up, I got a lot of their books at a second-hand children’s store near where we lived. The store had an unusual selection but many of these lesser-known titles became their favorites. I had to go by memory, because our bin of children’s books is buried deep in our storage room and it will take me some time to pull them out.

I was happy to find one of these images on eBay (Let’s Go to the Doctor). My family still quotes lines from that book!

So here’s a short trip down our memory lane. I bet you recognize a few of them!

What well-worn children’s books have you re-read?

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

To re-read or not to re-read…that is my question!

This weekend I re-read Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian, to get ready for my mystery book club at work on Wednesday. All last week, before I started, I was cursing myself. Why did I read this on my own last summer when I was pretty sure we were going to read it in March? I haven’t re-read a book in a while because, with a few exceptions (you know, Youngblood Hawke and a few others 😉), most books are a “one and done” experience for me. Would my notes be enough? Well I couldn’t find them in my notebook and then I realized I’d read it during my short-lived “I’m only going to take notes on my new Kindle” phase. Argggh.

End result? I re-read it and got A LOT more out of the book the second time around. Not just the plot and character development, but the second time around, I started to better understand the setting and time period (Boston in 1662) and appreciate how much research went into writing this historical fiction. And for these reasons I enjoyed it even more!

So, not a new topic, but I’m interested in knowing what you do.

Do you re-read books and if so, which ones? Leave a comment!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Jaq D Hawkins

Jaq D Hawkins

Name: Jaq D Hawkins

Books: Dance of the Goblins, To Dance With Dragons, Power of the Dance, The Wake of the Dragon, The Chase For Choronzon

Genre: Fantasy

Background: Traditionally published author gone full indie. Publishes non-fiction occult and Fantasy fiction.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? As a child, though my first book was published in 1996.

Do you write full-time? I juggle film editing with writing, but yes, my creative work is full time.

Where do you get your ideas for characters and plots? They plague me constantly. I have many partial projects on my computer, all vying for attention. Ideas are the easy part.

Have you ever written yourself into a story? I think all writers lend some of themselves to favourite characters.

Tell me about your nonfiction projects. What subjects motivate you? I’ve had an interest in occult subjects since an aunt first introduced me to astrology at age 8. My first published pieces were for specialist magazines in that subject matter and I’ve had a few books out since then, mainly about chaos witchcraft and nature spirits.

What kind of research and preparation do you do before you write? It depends on the project. For example, The Wake of the Dragon is set in an alternative Victorian England and apart from the airships, much of it is effectively historical fiction. The East India Company and their involvement in the opium trade was very interesting indeed!

What is your editing process? Do you hire an outside editor? Every writer should hire an editor. The first pass I do myself though. I make a PDF and put it on my Kindle, read one chapter a day and take notes on any typos I find and anything else that needs changing.

How do you decide on your book covers? Do you outsource? My Fantasy covers have art from very talented artists. I do my own titles and graphics as I’m an old Photoshop addict. The one exception was The Chase for Choronzon, as the whimsical nature of that one was given to a photo manipulation.

How did you come up with the title of your latest book? The latest release was The Chase For Choronzon. That reflects the plot of the book itself, as two magicians chase the demon Choronzon through time and space to return him to his duty, guarding the gates between the worlds.

What route did you take to get published? Describe your experience. The fiction was a lucky accident. I was deciding what route to go with that when someone starting a small publishing company ended up sitting at a table with me at a social event. He had a look, got some of his people to read my manuscript and decided to go with it.

Have you ever tried to get an agent? If so, what steps did you take?  In my early writing days I sent things to agents, usually to be told they didn’t handle genre fiction, even if their listings said they did.

What kinds of things do you do to promote your book? Not enough. I’ve got them on book sale lists and more recently have tried Bookfunnel while assessing the more costly options.

Have you ever had a book-signing event? Yes. I’ve done book signings for my non-fiction on occasion.

Have you taken writing courses? In school. I regularly read articles online about various aspects of writing.

Do you belong to a writer’s group? Tell us about your experience. A few groups on Facebook. I find them very friendly and supportive.

Are you in a book club? Not at the moment.

Do you ask friends/family to read your WIP? No. They’re the least likely to read it and if they do, they’ll tell you it’s wonderful no matter what.

Name three unread books on your bookshelf. The ones at the top of my tbr at present are The Other Magic by Derrick Smythe, Reign of Shadows by Angel Haze and A Thief in Farshore by Justin Pike. I do read other genres but there’s some awesome indie Fantasy out there and I’m trying to catch up.

What is the last book you read? Finished? Crucible of Shadows by Jon Cronshaw. It was third in a series well worth reading.

How many pages do you think a book of fiction/nonfiction should be? It depends. Non-fiction is totally down to how much information needs to be conveyed on the subject. Fiction is fairly subjective. I like books under 400 pages best. Some people like huge books and I will read them if they’re good enough to hold my attention that long.

What is the riskiest or wildest thing you’ve ever done? Either running away with the carnival at age 16 or initiating court proceedings on my own, using my writing ability to copy format on papers sent against me in a custody case. I won in the end.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Physical or mental? Mental, definitely the custody battle. Physical, was probably a printing job I had where I didn’t realise the first night I was doing the work of two men. I just threw myself into the work and didn’t think about the fact that it wasn’t really a lady’s job.

What advice can you give to new writers entering the writing and publishing arena? Learn to take criticism. Your first draft is never going to be perfect. Writing is hard work, not an easy buck.

Website and social media links:
WordPress: goblinsandsteampunk
Amazon: Jaq-D-Hawkins
Smashwords: jaqdhawkins
Facebook: GoblinSeries

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

Blog Views and Other Obsessions – WordPress Story Update and Thoughts

Here’s an interesting follow-up to my post last week in which I talked about the new story feature on the Jetpack app. As an experiment, I tried it out and this is what happened:

My experimental story has gotten more views and likes than any other post so far this month. Isn’t that weird? Does anyone know if Jetpack stories boost blog performance?

I just posted another story, to see if that’s the case. After this, I promise I’ll stop talking about Jetpack!

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I find it hard to resist a juicy book about Hollywood, especially during the 1950s and 60s. I’ve read a few nonfiction books about Hollywood and, while this one is fiction, there are just enough hints about actual actors to make it appealing.

Based on the title and cover, I immediately thought of Elizabeth Taylor and her seven husbands. But Evelyn Hugo is not Liz Taylor. Unlike Liz who was British and grew up in privilege, Evelyn was from Hell’s Kitchen in New York and her parents were Cuban. She used her sex and beauty to make it to the top and made calculating and ruthless decisions in her career and in her marriages. Along the way, she became an acclaimed actress and was known to take big chances, some of which cost her dearly.

The story begins in present day New York when Evelyn, nearing the end of her life, contacts Vivant magazine. She proposes the magazine write a feature article about her, but insists it be written by Monique Grant, a lower-level writer for Vivant. The editor is baffled, but begrudgingly agrees and assigns Monique the story. At their first meeting, however, Evelyn shifts plans. There will be no feature article and Vivant is out. Instead, she gives Monique full rights to write a tell-all life biography about Evelyn, to be published after her death.

Through several weeks of interviews, readers learn about Evelyn’s life and, of course, her husbands, and why she married them. She married actors, singers, a studio producer, a film director and a financier, and she’s coy when Monique asks her who her greatest love was.

That’s one teaser. And the other teaser is why Monique? I’m not giving any hints. You’re going to have to read the whole book to find out.

I enjoyed this book. It was thoroughly entertaining and seemed an accurate portrayal of the Hollywood scene during this time period. I liked the way the author showed how movies changed from the prim and picture-perfect 50s to much edgier subjects and daring scenes in the 60s, 70s and beyond. I also liked reading about Evelyn’s relationships and friendships. She may not be a likable person, but she did what she had to do to make it and has no regrets. I liked being given the task of trying to understand this complex character. In some books, you have to like the main character to enjoy it, but not this one!

Other good books about Hollywood:

Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

I also enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!