Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Review of Dean Koontz -- Your Heart Belongs to Me

My husband and I recently took a trip to the library so he could feed his passion -- nonfiction -- while mine of course is fiction. As I looked around volume after volume of tomes, I did something unheard of, I checked out a book. As a writer, I prefer to buy my books and support the craft, but Dean Koontz' Your Heart Belongs to Me, virtually leapt off the shelf.

I have to say if I was judging this book from a writing contest perspective -- where many say: Is there a good balance between dialogue and narrative? -- I would have to score this book low. However, this book which is in a three-part series and full of mundane workings of a man awaiting a heart transplant held me spellbound.

Why? I've been contemplating that question for weeks. The book breaks every rule in Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. We learn what he eats for breakfast, dinner and lunch, his preferences on TV, how much he sleeps, and yet I was flipping through pages.

The book is full of description of setting and yet I remember each and every detail as though I finished this book yesterday. When Koontz does slip into dialogue, which is flawless and natural, and changes scene to advance his plot, I'm there and my eyes are fixed on the page. His research was impeccable and I was in the head of a man who, although rich beyond words, was desperate to live, but vulnerable because he could lose it all literally with the end of a heartbeat.

The times his protagonist has an episode where you think he's about to have a heart attack, I was clenching my fist then taking my pulse. This book wasn't the typical Dean Koontz grab the reader by the throat and don't let him breathe until the last page thriller. It was more. In this reader's viewpoint Mr. Koontz practices psychological warfare on the purchaser. Which one of us us hasn't on occasion touched his chest for reassurance that his heart is still functioning properly?

On the cover jacket, one of the critics writes, Dean Koontz is a wordsmith.

This reader concurs. And that's why he was able to break every supposed writing rule in the book, and why this reader couldn't stop reading. In the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the contest I coordinate, one of the tie-breaking statements that exists on the score sheet reads: This manuscript is superb - masterfully written.

I now know the meaning of the statement. Your Heart Belongs to Me is such a book. Mr. Koontz, you're amazing.


Misty Evans said...

I read Dean Koontz because he is indeed a word smith. I learn new vocabulary with every chapter.

This wasn't my favorite book of his, but the I agree with you, D., it's an intense psychological roller coaster ride.

(I think I liked your review better than the book, btw.) :)

KL Grady said...

Donnell - great review. Koontz has been a favorite of mine, but his books have often been too alike in recent years. This one was NOT like any of his other books. Well-played, and though I didn't care for the ending at all (not how the characters fell out, just how things were tied up), it was definitely masterful.

Donnell said...

Misty, thanks for the compliment on the review ;) I guess the word subjective really does apply!

K.L., when I closed the book I thought, huh. That's not the way *I* would have ended it. But if your consider what the protag learns from start to finish, I can see where D.K. was going. I won't spoil it here for readers who want to pick up this book. But if you want to see a man grow from start to finish, Your Heart Belongs to Me is a great example of character growth; would you agree?

KL Grady said...

Absolutely! Like I said, I liked where the characters ended up, I just didn't like how Koontz tied it all up. I really liked the character growth. A lot!

Toni Anderson said...

I have never read Dean Koontz even though I have some of his books on my shelf. I must remedy that!

Donnell said...

Toni, thanks for stopping by. I've read a number of Dean Koontz books, and each make a lasting impression. As you can see from my trusted writing colleagues, he affects each of us differently. Isn't that what writing is supposed to do: Evoke an emotion?

I made the mistake once of telling my friend to read one of Koontz' books on her way to Germany. I simply forgot about the plane plunging to the earth scene in the story. She wasn't too happy with me ;)

I'll be curious what you think of his reads.

Donnell said...

I'm posting this for my wonderful friend who can't seem to post on Five Scribes. She's a fellow Contest Coordinator and her words truly resonate with me. Write the best book you can, know the supposed rules, but also know when to break them. Donnell


As you know I always check 5 Scribes, but it never accepts my posts. But I wanted to let you know I truly agree with your comments about DK never winning a contest. You point out exactly what can be a strong negative in contests if entrants place too much reliance on the scores and feedback.

Same is true of critique groups which is why for me I won't be in one. I have my readers who read sections if I want and the whole when I've finished and are there to discuss issues with me, but I couldn't handle some of what I've witnessed in critique groups. Yeah, I know, I'm an old fossil, and I accept that my belief could definitely hamper any success I might have but I have to be true to myself.

I've appreciated feedback from contests and evaluate and make changes if I hear the same over and over, do the same with reader's interests--if I think it's relevant. Way too stubborn.

Now you know my warts...

Have a great day. Mary Jo posting every Sunday
writing romantic suspense as Casey Clifford, Black Ribbon Affair released Oct. 2009

Nancy said...

Donnell, you've done a great job with the review and the point of the post. Breaking rules might not win contests, but it can make for an unforgettable book.

Whether we call a book masterfully written or compelling, those are the ones that can stick with us. Even if we don't want them to! :)

Nancy Haddock

Lee Lofland said...

Donnell - Great review. I'm a Koontz fan for all the reasons you mentioned.

A good storyteller can bend the rules any time they like. In fact, I think those folks stood their ground and Don Maass simply wrote his book around them.

Again, great review!

Donnell said...

Thanks, Lee. Agreed. Dean Koontz has a following, and can pretty well do what he wants. As I said this story, in my opinion, broke his typical thriller mold.

I still refer to Writing the Break out Novel for newbies and new authors because they aren't established, and giving credence to DM's words, will help them faster than if they don't. Thanks for dropping by.