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Go Set a Watchman – Not a Sequel, a Glimpse at the Literary Process

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Despite my most diligent efforts to avoid spoilers online, I caught a glimpse of a few Go Set a Watchman leaks. Namely, these two: “Atticus Finch is a racist and Tom Robinson was acquitted.” In my opinion, as far as Mockingbird is concerned, one of these is just as false as the other.

I think there is a good reason for these inconsistencies. To Kill a Mockingbird was written after Watchman, at the suggestion of someone affiliated with publishing. In other words, as Lee wrote Mockingbird, no “fictional truths” were in place to govern the rules of the book.

She was at complete literary freedom.

Regardless of reviews and astonishing headlines, I don’t fault Harper Lee at all. I still think she is an amazing writer and Mockingbird will continue to be one of my favorite tales. Facts, characters and more can change from draft to draft – that is especially true when jumping from manuscript to manuscript.

Let’s try to put this in perspective.

Have you seen the Back to the Future trilogy? In part two, remember when Biff steals the sports almanac, takes the DeLorean back to 1955 and gives it to his younger self? This created a parallel, alternate timeline, as explained by the thick-tufted Doc Brown himself.

Think of Watchman like that. Being written before the classic we have all come to know and love, what was true in that book did not have to be true in Mockingbird. As far as Lee was concerned, she was writing a different novel, governed by a different set of truths, completely unaware that anyone would ever set eyes on Watchman.

This inconsistency created the alternate timeline where Atticus Finch is a racist, Tom Robinson was acquitted, and Biff is corrupt, powerful and married to your mother.

I am still counting down the minutes to midnight, waiting to get my copy and start reading. I will definitely post a review once I finish the book. I just don’t want to jump to any out-of-context conclusions.

I believe I (and many others) can still enjoy Watchman, especially when you consider it for what it is: not a sequel, but a glimpse at the creative process that ultimately gave us the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

Lancaster House, by Taylor Dean: A Haunting Love Story for Valentine’s Day

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I picked up Lancaster House by Taylor Dean from the Kindle Store on a whim. I read the synopsis and thought it sounded like an intriguing “haunted house” story – plus it had a cool cover. I must say, I was not disappointed with my purchase. Lancaster House had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and an intelligent, reliable, logical narrator – which is more than I can say for most paranormal romance novels that I’ve read. Yes, I said romance.

Allow me to begin by saying: I’m not a huge fan of romance novels. As a matter of fact, I loathe most of them. Not because I’m a heartless ice king, but because most romance novels are trite, formulaic tales that lack imagination. Romance is a hard genre to pull off. However, I love when romance is expertly woven into a story – which is the case with Lancaster House. Is it a romance novel? Yes. But there’s so much more going on beneath the surface.

Zoe Grayson, central character of the tale, is a 25-year-old independent woman who has recently lost her father and fiancé – her father to death, her fiancé to infidelity. She’s decided she has to move on, and therefore purchases an old Victorian mansion with tons of quirks and architectural oddities – very reminiscent of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer and its film counterpart Rose Red.

The Strongest Points of the Novel

The strongest points are easily the setting and the development of Zoe. The setting was very well done. Taylor Dean constructed a house so vivid that it was easy to conjure images of the old Victorian and all its hidden rooms and stairs that lead to nowhere.

Zoe was real to me. She was so well-developed, with her own morality, philosophies, talents and flaws. She was logical and never made decisions that seemed ignorant or out of context. And that’s really my biggest beef with paranormal romance novels (especially Twilight): the central characters often make decisions that are convenient to the plot, but make no sense logically. Zoe did not suffer from this flaw. Her flaws were real-world flaws – a sense of detachment due to the loss of her father, a lack of trust due to experiences with past loves, and so on. Not, yes I want to become a vampire but marriage is such a big commitment.

The Weakest Points of the Novel

There was only one thing I would have done differently in this book. And that doesn’t mean that Dean’s choice was a bad one, it just means all writers are different. And isn’t diversity a wonderful thing? The story is framed by Zoe living in a mental health facility and telling her tale to her doctor. The framework is in third person, which is fine. But when Zoe starts to tell her story, she begins in first person and trails off in an ellipsis. The next chapter begins as Zoe’s tale, but it reverts to third person. I just would have felt more immersed in the story had it been in Zoe’s own words.

But that’s just me.

Overall…

Taylor Dean did a wonderful job in crafting Lancaster House. It brought me out of my element and got me reading a genre I’m not terribly familiar with. Bravo! This book was an easy 5 stars. I highly recommend it (only $2.99 on the Kindle store), especially for fans of romance novels. Well done, Taylor! I’ve already purchased the sequel!

About Taylor Dean

“Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding that she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense—you’ll find all sub-genres of romance in her line-up.”

Taylor tells me she wrote Lancaster House because of an agreement with her daughter, who is a huge Twilight fan. “Mom,” she said, “let’s both write a paranormal story and see what comes of them.” Taylor was reluctant to try her hand at paranormal romance, but finally gave in. I, for one, am glad she did.

50 Shades of Bateman

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Christian Grey of the hit series 50 Shades of Grey is a 27-year-old businessman, who is very wealthy, lives an extravagant lifestyle, and has overly-aggressive tendencies (especially towards women) that some would consider psychotic. Does that sound like anyone else you may have read about? Or watched in a movie? I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t knock something until you’ve tried it (I know, dangerous statement in a blog that talks about a bondage / erotica novel). And literally everyone I know had a very strong opinion of 50 Shades of Grey, whether they loved it or hated it. So, I said to myself, “I want an opinion too. I want to see what all the hype is about.” So I read it. I regret it now, as that’s a few hours of my life I’ll never get back — but oh well.

I’d heard every argument, both for and against this book before sitting down to read it. Many feminist critics were against the series because it strengthens the portrayal of women as objects and gives the impression that every man, no matter how abusive, can be fixed. Many love it because it casts a mainstream spotlight on erotica. There’s nothing wrong with erotica, in my opinion, just so long as it’s well-written. (Key phrase: well-written.) Some people hate it because of its graphic imagery; some love it for exactly the same reason. But one trait pushed all of that out of my mind while I was reading, for at least a while.

Christian Grey is very similar to Patrick Bateman, madman and wealthy playboy from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. However, I believe the character shows even more similarities to the big-screen adaptation of Bateman, portrayed by Christian Bale — possibly because more people are familiar with the film than the book.

Let’s do the list. Similarities include:

  • Christian Grey shares a first name with Christian Bale.
  • Both characters are 27 years old.
  • Both lead extravagant lifestyles due to a very fine career in business.
  • Both have psychotic tendencies, disturbing obsessions, and inflict crude sexual acts on women.
  • Both mask their psychotic behavior with a very professional appearance.

It got to where I was expecting Christian Grey to “return some video tapes” at any moment.

I am in no way implying that Christian Grey was derived from (or even inspired by) Patrick Bateman. I’m merely pointing out a few similarities that I found striking and interesting. It was these similarities that got me through the book. I realize the characters aren’t identical. The above traits just caught my eye.

I now have an opinion: I am not a fan of 50 Shades of Grey. In my opinion, feminist critics hit it spot on. I felt the book cast women in a very negative light, was poorly written, and lacked a logical, intelligent narrator. It’s like how plot, acting and execution (more often than not) don’t matter in porn. All can be terrible and the movie can still accomplish its goal. But 50 Shades of Grey was erotic, to say the least.

But that’s just my two cents. Read it for yourself if you haven’t already (I realize I’m late to the party).


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