The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is one of the better books I have read. The entire story is told from the point of vi...moreThe Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is one of the better books I have read. The entire story is told from the point of view of Sophie Salmon (like the fish), a young girl who is horribly murdered, and is focused on her observations from heaven of her friends and family as they strive to make sense of this tragedy and to simply live their lives.
The uniqueness of the narrator makes for an interesting read. But this is not a crime story as I was expecting. I have read more books in which the murderer is caught and, well, either killed or punished in some way and while this story did deal with the murderer himself, his capture wasn’t the focus of the novel. To me, in some ways, this was extremely refreshing, yet I am glad that it is addressed in the novel at some point.
As I have a child of my own, my dear Natasha Bear, I can’t imagine what ANY parent must feel upon the realization that someone has taken their child away from them. The only thing I can do is to wrap my daughter up in my arms and, as she squirms to get away from me, to simply be grateful for the time we have together and to pray that nothing like this ever happens to her.
I was enthralled by the book, but it didn’t keep me up all night or invade my thoughts as to what was going to happen next. I am yet unsure as to whether to go to the movie (or to watch it when it comes out on DVD) because I am sure that Hollywood will mangle it.
I finally finished reading Stephen King’s newest work, Under the Dome.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
“King’s return to supernatural horror is uncomfortably...moreI finally finished reading Stephen King’s newest work, Under the Dome.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
“King’s return to supernatural horror is uncomfortably bulky, formidably complex and irresistibly compelling. When the smalltown of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is surrounded by an invisible force field, the people inside must exert themselves to survive. The situation deteriorates rapidly due to the dome’s ecological effects and the machinations of Big Jim Rennie, an obscenely sanctimonious local politician and drug lord who likes the idea of having an isolated populace to dominate. Opposing him are footloose Iraq veteran Dale “Barbie” Barbara, newspaper editor Julia Shumway, a gaggle of teen skateboarders and others who want to solve the riddle of the dome. King handles the huge cast of characters masterfully but ruthlessly, forcing them to live (or not) with the consequences of hasty decisions. Readers will recognize themes and images from King’s earlier fiction, and while this novel doesn’t have the moral weight of, say, The Stand, nevertheless, it’s a nonstop thrill ride as well as a disturbing, moving meditation on our capacity for good and evil.”
Under the Dome is the story of a town cut off from civilization by a huge see-through dome that mysteriously appears one day. Iraqi War veteran Lieutenant (soon to be Colonel) Dale “Barbie” Barbara has decided to leave town because of an altercation with Junior Rennie, the deranged son of Second Selectman James Rennie, and gets caught as the Dome comes down.
James “Big Jim” Rennie is a “Christian fundamentalist” who, through steel and cunning, has run the town for years, even before the Dome came. After the Dome, he is determined to be the hope and “savior” of the town by taking all the control he can. He villianizes Barbie to the town, using him to rally most of the town to his side, creating his own army “police force” through us
So, where do I start? It was deliciously a “Stephen King novel,” make no mistake about that. Steve has become very comfortable with who he is and his own personal writing style. Reading this book was like curling up with an old friend, but I didn’t feel as engrossed in the storyline as I have in previous books.
His characters were the same type of character: the every day next-door neighbors. He is the Master for a reason: his words flow, every word is the best word. His descriptions of his characters are exactly what you need to know the character without trying to give too much information. And that’s one of the things that I’m trying to develop in my own writing: an author needs to provide enough description that the reader can see the character and that’s it. But every single time we see a character, these descriptions are used to paint a much wider portrait of that character.
Even with all the description and the detail included, I felt that these characters were extremely one-dimensional. Haven’t we seen these characters before in other books that he has written? As I was reading, it felt like a lot of these characters were rehashed from other books of his. While this is part of the familiarity of Steve’s writing, for some reason this time, it feels a bit worn like an old sweater that you love, but is just ready to be thrown out. I think I’ve worn this sweater enough and I’m ready for something new.
Steve was also “author-preachy” at the end which was something I was rather surprised about. He has often let his characters and his story speak for themselves, but this one felt like there was something specific that he had to say and so he put those words into the mouths of his characters. Would his characters have said these things for themselves? I don’t know.
The only two quote I wrote in my notebook:
“At first, nothing crossed his mind. He was in that mostly empty-headed state of grace which is sometimes such fertile soil; it’s the ground from which our brightest dreams and biggest ideas (both the good and the spectacularly bad) suddenly burst forth, often full-bloom.” (p. 207)
“Give a man or a woman back his self-respect and in most cases - not all but most - you also give back that person’s ability to think with at least some clarity.” (p. 482)
The book is as grand in scope as Steve’s previous works, It and The Stand, but it falls far short of the standard that he set with those works. I also thought the end was a cop-out and, after reading 1000+ pages, I truly expected more. The ending itself felt like Steve had written himself into a corner and then tried to write himself out of it though not very well. (less)
This is the first book I have read by Olga Gardner Galvin and, I must say, it will not be the last.
Set in a future not too distant from our own, the U...moreThis is the first book I have read by Olga Gardner Galvin and, I must say, it will not be the last.
Set in a future not too distant from our own, the United States in The Alphabet Challenge has almost become paralyzed from political correctness. Everyone considers themselves a victim of something. Everyone is entitled to reparations for their suffering and for equality, meaning if someone else has it, everyone else should have it also.
Earlier this year, my husband and his aunt were discussing legislating equality. She said, “Yes, you can.” Tom came back with, “Then I want Paris Hilton’s lifestyle.”
This is EXACTLY what this book is about. In it, the gridlocked, 4-party government and PeopleCare, the victim groups’ watchdog, are trying to and have mostly accomplished just that – the legislation of morality. I was amused by just how many different kinds of “survivor” organizations that Ms. Galvin could list in her book and, in different spots, I’d have to put the book down and giggle or groan at the organization mentioned.
At the beginning, Ms. Galvin has set her goal of explaining the nature of victimization and what it does for people. By the end, she has very much stated her case and shown the ridiculousness of trying to legislate morality and equality.
The main character is Howell Langston Toland, who has just gotten out of jail for “assault and not recycling glass bottles.” He’s looking for a get-rich-quick scheme so he can move out of his friend’s apartment and take his ex in-laws to Australia. So he concocts an idea: he would start an organization for people whose last names start with the last half of the alphabet (M – Z) because, since the world is set up for things to be in alphabetic order, these people are victims of discrimination.
His idea, while it sounds a bit strange to us, is wildly popular in this futuristic Manhattan and Toland begins to rake in the cash. But instead of taking off with his friends to Australia, he sticks around to see how much he can make. In doing this, he begins to see the “role” he is playing as the leader of this group and becomes frustrated with the entire situation.
It’s not long at all before PeopleCare and the government start trying to take over because Toland begins to tell his followers they are responsible for their own lives, not the government and definitely not PeopleCare.
I enjoyed this book. As I stated, Ms. Galvin does her part to explain both sides of this argument. While reading the book, in many ways, I was reminded of another Russian woman who came to America and saw the potential within it: Ayn Rand. However, thankfully, Ms. Galvin is a touch more succinct than Ms. Rand was – there are no 90 page speeches on Objectivism in this book.
I definitely look forward to more of what Ms. Galvin will produce.(less)
The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' -- Ronald Reagan.
"Mean Martin Manning" is...moreThe nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' -- Ronald Reagan.
"Mean Martin Manning" is the story of one man and his life being turned upside down by a rampant government caseworker and her desire to "better his life."
Martin lives in an apartment, collects his ceramic frogs, eats his mayonnaise and salami sandwiches, and wears his bathrobe all the time. The caseworker, Alice Pitney, wants to change all that because he "can't be happy" and she wants to help him "live up to his potential."
An interesting observation: Martin wasn't necessarily meant to be liked by the readers of the book, yet because we all have the desire to be left to live our lives the way we see it, we sympathize with Martin's plight.
“Visitation Rights” by Lawrence Dagstine doesn’t feel as much of a horror story as a paranormal courtroom drama. When I think of horror, I think of sp...more“Visitation Rights” by Lawrence Dagstine doesn’t feel as much of a horror story as a paranormal courtroom drama. When I think of horror, I think of spine-tingling, gut-wrenching emotional effects and I just didn’t feel that here.
The parents of a soldier (Jack and Margery) are fighting with their son’s widow (Jenny) in a courtroom over visitation rights to their deceased son’s ghost (an “AV-36”) who is in a “transitioning camp” to help the transition from “life” to “after-life.” The AV-36 is an extension of stem-cell research (the field Jack’s retired from) to the paranormal realm of ghosts and spirits. It’s never fully explained how the two have mixed, but that’s ok.
Why they are fighting, I’m not quite sure... The parents want to visit what’s left of their son in the camp while the widow puts on a performance on the stand that feels like it is staged for the court’s reaction, talking about how the AV-36 is disturbed by the father’s visits because he doesn’t want to remember the past.
The story itself was entertaining but the characters simply didn’t grab a hold of me. They just didn’t feel like real people with real lives, but creations for the purpose of this story alone.
While I’m not going to go into detail here for obvious reasons, I didn’t quite understand why this particular ending was chosen -- while, yes, it worked, the motivations behind it confused me. It wasn’t as satisfying an ending as I would have liked.
With some work on characterization and developing the background of the characters involved, I think “Visitation Rights” would definitely be a better story.
Review: 3 out of 5 stars, definitely has potential.(less)
“An old Ukrainian proverb warns, ‘A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.’ That is a risk we will have to take.” -- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
The back of the book states:
“Jitterbug Perfume is an epic.
Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn’t conclude until nine o’clock tonight (Paris time).
It is a saga as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle.
The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god.
If the liquid in the bottle actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is only a drop or two left.”
The back of the book doesn’t know anything about the book’s contents.
Sure, you’ll find perfume in here. You’ll also find immortality, love, sex, ancient religion, beets, wisdom, revenge, double agents, lust, humor, thoughtfulness, philosophy...
And wonderfully phrased statements that will make you read them twice.
Jitterbug Perfume is probably one of the only books that I can honestly say that the journey really is the destination. I’ve never quite read anything like this before. And it’s really not so much the plot of the story that keeps you going as the fully-developed characters, the ideas, and simply to see what Robbins is going to say next.
In a way, it’s like a train wreck: you HAVE to watch because you're overly curious, but this train wreck is more for your reading palate.
But I have to admit, Tom Robbins will wear you out. There were occasions while reading this book, I put it down for something easier to read. Something that didn’t make me think as much. Something that I felt I could skim and still get the author’s full effect rather than a book I wanted to read every single word because of how the words were put together and written on the page.
However, I will probably read this book again. I’m sure there are lots of things I missed--and if I “get” them on only a second reading, I’ll be surprised.
This is one of those books that will intimidate you if you are a writer. I looked up Robbins’ writing style and read that he writes one sentence at a time--making sure it is the PERFECT sentence before going on to the next. His books are published as the publisher receives them and not edited. When you’re reading Robbins’s work, you’re reading his thoughts, in the exact order he thought them in.
Yes, intimidating. I couldn’t do that--I’d never have anything written, period, much less have other work. But the man is a genius. And as a friend of mine stated, “Robbins is never inside the box.”
Review: 5 out of 5 stars.
* A friend of mine suggested I read this book then I happened to find it in my next-door neighbors' stack of books they hadn't been able to sell in their garage sale a couple of months earlier. This note is to comply with FCC Regulations and to let you, the reader, know I have reviewed the work in good faith.(less)
This was an extremely nice distraction from all the thought-provoking literature I’ve been reading nowaday...moreBook Review: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This was an extremely nice distraction from all the thought-provoking literature I’ve been reading nowadays.
I think one of the HUGE differences between “literature” and “popular fiction” is the reading level the book is written on. No, I don’t think one is better than the other--they both have their place in life. Honestly, popular fiction is usually a much quicker read for me and I’m riveted to my seat to discover what happens next.
But that’s the subject of a different post :)
Set in the 1950’s, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is about a U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, who is called to a criminal psychiatric hospital to search for an escaped patient, a woman who murdered her children.
This is my first introduction to Lehane’s work--I’ve not read or seen his best known work, Mystic River--and I enjoyed it.
In Shutter Island, the point of view placed you over Teddy’s shoulder. This is probably my favorite point-of-view for a story--it’s also one of the most used for the advantages it gives. For this novel, it was key--you see the story’s reality through the eyes of the character. Any other character’s point of view would have given you a completely different story and not had the effect that Lehane was looking for.
If I was going to suggest a few of the best examples of the use of this particular point-of-view, this novel would definitely be on the list.
The story works and works well, however I will admit that the ending wasn’t a huge surprise. No, I didn’t see it coming, but I also didn’t try to figure out (most of) the clues when they were given.
That's fine with me--when the ending was finally revealed, I was definitely engaged with the characters and, by that time, surprise wasn’t an issue. I could swear that I’ve seen this entire story done before in a different way--ending and all--so, for me, it doesn’t have that comepletely “unique” feel to it. And that's ok too.
Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and just be led down the story by the author rather than to try to figure out what the author was doing. Suspense is nice--the reader should always WANT to know what’s going on. Adding clues the reader can figure out is fun as well, but you want to be careful about revealing too much through those clues. I’ve read a few reviews of this novel that say the ending was obvious--I think those readers figured out the clues before the author actually wanted them to.
So, for a quick and fun read, this was a really good book. I’ve heard there’s a movie out based on the book with Leonardo DiCaprio and a few other stars directed by Martin Scoresce. I think I’ll pass on the movie. While yeah, it might be entertaining, I don’t feel the need to see it performed on the screen.
**spoiler alert** After reading and reviewing “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane, I was looking for yet another quick suspenseful read and “Fight Club”...more**spoiler alert** After reading and reviewing “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane, I was looking for yet another quick suspenseful read and “Fight Club” had been on top of my list for a while. My biggest problem is I have seen the movie too many times to let the book stand on its own in my mind.
This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Palahniuk (I read “Lullaby” when it first came out) and not, it’s not going to be the last. But I have to admit–I just wasn’t as impressed with this book as I thought I would be. Maybe part of the reason is that Edward Norton wouldn’t leave my head as the narrator and Tyler Durden will forever by Brad Pitt
I’ve seen “Fight Club” the movie enough times to feel like I know all the scenes by heart–all the characters on a first name basis–and I know the anarchist undercurrent of the story that swells up to reveal itself as the movie continues. I may not agree with Palahniuk’s anarchist philosophy, but in the movie (and the novel), it works and works very well. Part of me cheers when the bombs explode at the end of the movie–and that’s the same part of me that doesn’t question the philosophy expounded in both works.
The movie is fairly true to the gritty feel of the book itself. There are several scenes in the novel that were taken out of the screenplay–but that’s ok. Jack and Tyler don’t meet on an airplane–they meet on a beach. Marla seems to accept Jack and Tyler’s split personality much better than she does in the movie–the movie makes her appear more confused. The catch phrases always start with “I am Jack’s…”–in the book, it’s “I am Joe’s…”
The ending is somewhat different, but that’s ok–it’s hard to end a movie with the main character the audience is invested in, dying. At least, it’s a bit more realistic than the movie ending where Jack shoots himself point blank and survives, you know?
Eh, with the exception of enjoying Palahniuk’s writing style–he tends to have a uniqueness about him I enjoy–I’m not sure that I would really recommend this book to someone who has already seen the movie. It’s kinda like reading the screenplay–you know the story, you know how it develops, you know how it ends.
In “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, the author describes what happens when an entire city’s populace inexplicably goes blind. It is a “white blindness,”...moreIn “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, the author describes what happens when an entire city’s populace inexplicably goes blind. It is a “white blindness,” meaning that the people only see a “milky” mist of white around them.
Only one woman, only known as the doctor’s wife, can still see and is witness to this event.
She, her husband, the first blind man and later his wife, the girl with the dark glasses, the boy with the quint, the man with the eyepatch are all placed in a ward in an asylum by the government as are the rest of the suddenly blind at the beginning of the novel. The groups are separated into different wards: the people who have been exposed to the blindness and the actual blind, separated by a foyer and the gates to reenter the city are guarded by soliders who have orders to shoot anyone trying to escape at their discretion.
Within the gates of the asylum, it is a whole other world. I think one of the turning points in this first half is the shooting of a number of the blind as they are waiting for their food to be delivered by the soliders. One of the soldiers panics, thinking they are trying to escape, and shoots. Then all the soldiers shoot.
A number of the inmates (the leader with a gun) from another ward begin to terrorize the main characters by holding back food and making them “pay” for their food with any valuables they had with them (all their belongings) and then by raping the women.
I think the realization the government was not going to interfere with anything that happened in the asylum was the line drawn in the sand. With no repercussions, the criminal element was alble to gain control over the society in the asylum by fear.
For the first half of the novel, I was riveted to the text. Sure, people have debated Saramago’s style of writing back and forth–his giant run-on sentences with no tagged dialogues definitively marked and paragraphs encompassing pages and pages. It took a bit of adjustment–but, once I did, the writing added another dimension to the story. It added confusion, disorientation, and a need to pay closer attention to detail for the reader. And, in these three areas alone, the writing itself was magnificient.
I read fast. Well, I read popular fiction fast anyway. By the way this book was written, I had to slow down and pay attention to every word, who was speaking, who was acting. And I honestly liked the effect Saramago’s style had on the book.
For the first half of it, as I said.
Then the “inmates leave the asylum.” Outside the gates, the city has fallen to pieces–the blind are wandering about, identity-less as well as homeless. They have all decided, because they are blind, names are of no consequence. With their eyesight left their individual identities.
It seems as though everyone has panicked and society breaks down. Property rights have disappeared–the blind move in wherever they can as they can’t find their ways home.
We stop by the old flats where our characters lived before the blindness to discover the places are either occupied by others or in complete disarray. The world is dirty, filthy–the blind “do their business” in the streets without a care as to cleanliness.
I do not think people would give up their self-identity because they are blind. And while Saramago says that there is a piece within us that has no-name, I think the larger piece of us keeps us as separate identities. I AM Kari Wolfe. And while I am a part of the world, I still retain my own identity. My name is what identifies ME to others and, while it could be any name, this is the name I was given by my parents, the ones who created me.
While there are some beautifully written scenes within this half, I am pulled out of the fictional world because it’s not realistic. If everyone within a city was to suddenly be struck blind, would society totally collapse in on itself? Honestly, I doubt it.
Saramago’s lack of belief in human beings is disheartening.
Jose Saramago received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.
A recent novel adds appreciably to Saramago’s literary stature. It was published in 1995 and has the title “Blindness: a novel”. Its omniscient narrator takes us on a horrific journey through the interface created by individual human perceptions and the spiritual accretions of civilisation. Saramago’s exuberant imagination, capriciousness and clear-sightedness find full expression in this irrationally engaging work. “Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”
I have to admit–I really wasn’t that impressed.
2 stars out of 5. The story had possibility then descended into a chaotic mess, a story with no boundaries to hold it in.(less)
I’m still a few pages from being done with Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and WOW.
For YEARS, I have been looking for what I consider the “perfect” writing book. And every time I go to a bookstore, I find yet another book on writing (or some aspect) I find to be utterly indispensible. I must have them.
I’m not going to talk about how many writing books I have. Let’s just say… A few.
However, there are only a few books I would recommend to people. A lot of the books I’ve purchased are… Well, they tend to repeat the same things over and over again. Just in different ways.
This one does not. In fact, Writing the Breakout Novel has a TON of information you don’t see in other writing books. Why? I have no idea–but this information feels more like the information I have tried to find.
This is a MUST READ for any writer–fiction or nonfiction.
Donald Maass is a literary agent–yes, one of those people we all would love to have represent us. In fact, he represents some of the big names in the industry: Robert McCammon, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Bear… You can find a list of his clients on his webpage.
And this book is a book EVERY writer needs to have on his/her shelf.
Maass takes a look at “breakout novels”–the novels that get their author’s names about–and dissects them for their unique attributes. What makes a novel great? This book tells you what this agent thinks using examples from contemporary works as well as his own years of experience reading submission after submission.
He tells us what ideas that beginning novelists like to use and then proceeds to tell us why it usually doesn’t work. He gives us alternatives to these ideas as well as showing when they actually MIGHT work and how successful authors used them.
The examples Maass uses are from many different types of novels including both genre and literary fiction. Yep, there are spoilers for the books–but we’re not really reading for pleasure, are we? I’m making a list of the books and categorizing them into books I want to read in order to study what the author has done. I probably won’t read them all, but the ones that stand out for me, I’ll be all over.
Maass has also published a workbook to compliment this book. It includes examples as well as exercises to incorporate Maass’s ideas and thoughts into your novel. I’ll be using this and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great to work on making my current WIP better than ever. I’ll probably use it also to go back and help flesh out my NaNoWriMo novel from 2008 as well.
I’m also a graduate of Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class as well as her How to Revise Your Novel class. I think Maass’s work will be a substantial source of information to help me along my journey.
I’m glad I bought this book–and I’ll be using it MUCH more than most of my others.(less)
Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on. — Bob Newhart
Doing the job that comedians won’t d...more Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on. — Bob Newhart
Doing the job that comedians won’t do…
How do you begin writing a book review for a book that makes you laugh and cry all at the same time?
Scott Ott’s “Laughing at Obama, Volume 1” is an evocative and satirical look at Barack Obama starting from his rise to fame within the Democratic Party to his historical presidential campaign to his first year and a half as the President of the United States.
Some of the articles are just plain out-and-out funny. With headlines such as “If Obama Won’t Run, Dems Fear Dearth of Unknowns,” “Obama, Clinton, to Redistribute Cash to Poorer Rivals,” “Poll: Most Still Favor Obama Presidency Concept,” and “Obama Policy Barrage Combats Dem Reelection Threat,” there’s lots of stuff that will make you laugh out loud.
In the midst of the humor and the poking-fun, there’s a serious and heart-wrenching side to it as well. Reading this book will not only make you laugh but it will make you stop and think. Through his gift of satire, Scott shows us his love for the country and his desire for something better than what we’re currently settling for with the Obama Administration.
If you saw me out reading this weekend, those were tears of joy. Honest. Some of them, anyway.
“Laughing at Obama, Volume 1” can be purchased for the Kindle at Amazon.com. The paperback will be available June 2010 from Amazon or you can purchase single autographed copies (or cases to hand out to all your laughter-needy friends) at MacMenamin Press.
You can find Scott at ScottOtt.Org and read his satire for yourself at Scrappleface.
Wherever he’s channeling it from, Scott Ott is definitely doing something right.
The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. — Mark Twain
P.S. I know what I’m doing for Christmas presents this year. Or birthdays, for that matter.
STILL MISSING is the story of Annie O’Sullivan, a woman who is determined to battle the fears and memories of the year she was held captive by a man w...moreSTILL MISSING is the story of Annie O’Sullivan, a woman who is determined to battle the fears and memories of the year she was held captive by a man who she only thinks of as the Freak. A first-person narrative told to her psychologist, STILL MISSING is a captivating story.
What I liked:
I loved the idea of listening in on a woman who has escaped from a year of captivity while she reveals not only her abduction story but the lingering problems that go along with it.
I loved Ms. Stevens’ writing voice. Essentially, it’s Annie’s voice we hear. First-person point of view gives you fantastic repoir with the reader. In this novel, it’s more along the lines that the reader plays the part of the psychologist.
I loved the changes that Annie goes through, mostly in her relationship with the psychologist. In the beginning, she’s harsh and she goes to therapy because she thinks that she has to–she recognizes there are problems in her life that she needs to work through but everyone–media included–has been wanting the story. Not that they care about her–they just want the story.
As she talks to her psychologist and warms up to her, we learn Annie’s story. And we can feel what she feels because she tells us.
What I didn’t like:
Honestly, I didn’t care much for the ending. In the first half of the book, I was captivated. I didn’t want to put it down. The end of the novel (which I’m not going to reveal here) was kinda flat and dull. Overnight, I went from “Wow, this is great!” to “Eh, not sure about this part.”
I think part of what really stirred me up in the first half of the book was Annie’s conflict with her psychologist. She was her own woman–she didn’t want to be condemned for what she went through or judged for the things that she did.
As she healed, she obviously had less and less of that emotional upheaval we saw in the beginning of the novel. In the beginning, if I felt that something was rushed or brushed aside, or if there wasn’t as much emotion as I would have expected, it was easy to note that as perhaps a side effect of Annie’s therapy. She’s on-guard and she still didn’t trust this therapist–so to keep herself from being hurt, sometimes she stands at a bit more of a distance, but the emotions are right there in front of her.
Towards the end, things get a great deal more personal, but that distance is still there because of the patient-therapist divide. And it is at the end that Ms. Stevens’ choice of point of view doesn’t necessarily work well. It’s more of a “telling” what happened–than the “showing” of the climax.
I have read comments where people are saying this novel should be made into a movie. I can see that–it would be a good story and I think the ending would be a great deal more dramatic because of how it would be told.
Fantastic plot, great voice, nice and emotional twists. Ending was, eh, ok, more due to the “telling” of the story, rather than showing.
I definitely think that there is a lot for Chevy Stevens to work on–and to work towards–for her next novel. I asked my husband last night, while in the midst of reading the book, if I thought the book was that good, how was she going to be able to pull off a successful second book?
After finishing the book, I think Ms. Stevens has room to maneuver–she’s got a nice strong writing background with this book. She’s got room to grow–and I have a feeling this won’t be the last we’ve heard of her.
If she comes up with another uniquely intriguing idea and another voice, I’ll definitely be there for her second novel as well.
Congratulations to Ms. Stevens for a very interesting debut novel! :)
Sometimes it seems everywhere you turn, the entertainment and book industry throws mentally disturbed characters at us. Dennis Lahane’s “Shutter Islan...moreSometimes it seems everywhere you turn, the entertainment and book industry throws mentally disturbed characters at us. Dennis Lahane’s “Shutter Island,” both the book and the movie, are good examples of this: the federal agent visits a mental institution in the 1950’s to assist in the search for an escaped patient. Great story–the book AND the movie were definitely done right, entertainment-wise.
But what about factually? As a writer, I want to ensure that my works are as accurate as possible. Accuracy lends itself to realism which lends itself to a reader’s suspension of disbelief which lends itself to the beginnings of a great novel.
Written by a practicing psychotherapist and writer, Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D, “The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately about Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior” is a gift to writers everywhere who need a jumping off point to ensure they are on the right path when it comes to accuracy in the area of psychology.
In the first chapter, Dr. Kaufman points out the need for consistency in research by fiction writers by talking about various public perceptions regarding psychological disorders as well as the psychology profession itself. In each chapter, she takes topical examples from popular TV shows, movies and books, showing us the inaccuracies with the characters and how they are portrayed, showing us where the writers went wrong and how that information has been disseminated into popular culture.
With chapters on fictional representations of psychological issues, how to think like a shrink, the ethics of a therapy and how therapy actually works, this book gives you a strong working background to incorporate into your story. The latter half of the book lists most of the well-known disorders, a chapter focusing on psychopathic behaviors in villains, a chapter on well-known interventions ranging from medication to electroconvulsive therapy to lobotomies as well as how to handle suicidal behavior and psychiatric hospitalizations.
“The Writer’s Guide to Psychology” is a great roadmap for writers, authors and anyone who wants to start factually based research in the field of psychology.(less)
This makes the third thriller this summer that I’ve had problems putting down.
In 1994, nine university students participated in a unique class called...moreThis makes the third thriller this summer that I’ve had problems putting down.
In 1994, nine university students participated in a unique class called “Unraveling a Literary Mystery,” taught by Dr. Richard Aldiss via his jail cell where he was serving a sentence for two gruesome murders. He introduced them to a game called the Procedure, a process of the study and understanding of the works of reclusive literary master, Paul Fallows.
During that class, one student, Alex Shipley, figured out the identity of the reclusive “literary mystery” Paul Fallows and found information that helped release Aldiss from his prison cell.
Now, years later, she’s going back to Jasper College and getting the “old crew” together because someone has recreated one of the murders from the past with a former classmate. The fear is: every one of them could be next—or the killer.
This was a fascinating premise for a story.
It’s not a strong character-based novel—I didn’t get that strong of a connection with the characters but, for some novels, that’s okay. Will Lavender has developed a plot that I was completely absorbed in. And I’m good with that. Lavender kept me on my toes trying to figure out what was going on and stringing me along for the ride. He kept me guessing along with Alex, the main character, and, for that, I was pretty happy
The book flipped from the past (1994) to the present, essentially telling two intertwined stories at the same time. I think Lavender did an extremely nice job of helping the author keep track of what had happened in the previous section of that timeline. Oftentimes, books that switch back and forth can get confusing for a reader because they don’t remember what happened in the previous section—any time a reader takes a break from a story (or any part of a story), forgetting is a possibility, meaning, of course, you have to go back and read the last page of the previous section—and it disrupts the flow of the narrative–and pulls the reader out of the story. Lavender makes it easy to remember without making too much of an author intrusion—and, besides, I didn’t want to put the book down anyway
A good quick read. Now I want his first book, Obedience, and I’ll definitely be in for the next book he writes as well.
(Disclaimer: Received ARC from Simon & Schuster through Publisher’s Weekly.)(less)
Every day it seems someone comes out with a new book on writing. As a writer, I’m drawn to the writing reference section in bookstores. I can’t help m...moreEvery day it seems someone comes out with a new book on writing. As a writer, I’m drawn to the writing reference section in bookstores. I can’t help myself. I’m always looking for that new take on things—maybe a secret that I’ve missed along the way somewhere.
While I know deep down that the only real way to learn to write well is to write often, I pick up new books on writing and glance through them to see if there’s anything new in them.
Modeled on his class, "Starting and Finishing That Book You’ve Always Wanted to Write," Write Your Book Now! by Gene Perret lays out a direct and to-the-point path to follow in order to write and finish a book. Perret’s idea is that no one can write a whole book, however, by focusing on small attainable goals, you can complete the overall project.
This is a small book (126 pages) but there’s a LOT of information inside. Perret goes into step-by-step detail on how to tackle your book, emphasizing the need to plan ahead and know what you ultimately want to say along with everything from determining who your audience is to scheduling writing time in your day to publication and support on your writing journey.
While reading the book, the one thing that really stuck out to me was that there was no discussion of plot, structure or character. This threw me off because I’ve read more books on writing fiction than nonfiction and, well, I kind of expect to see a discussion of plot or character, regardless of how short the discussion is. And, yeah, that's probably just me. :)
However, it did bring up thoughts of the constant plotter vs pantser argument. I was given the opportunity to ask Mr. Perret some questions and my first question to him was along those lines:
KARI WOLFE: In the organic vs. outline writing debate on the Internet, you seem to come down pretty hard on the outline side of things. Do you think there is a place for organic writing (i.e. writing without an outline or planning) in the writing world?
GENE PERRET: I certainly do feel that there is a place for organic writing. I believe there is a place for all sorts of writing. The reason I favored “outline” writing in this book is because the book was designed for those people who have been wanting to write a book but can’t seem to either get it started or get it finished. Therefore I suggested getting organized as a cure for that. Think through different segments of the book, organize them, outline the complete book. That may be the impetus you need to get your writing through to the “back cover.” One thing that should be emphasized is that my book is “A way” to start and finish a book. It’s “The way” to start and finish a book. If a writer is having trouble completing a book, my ideas will help. However, if a writer is turning out manuscript after manuscript, there’s no need to change that writer’s working protocol just to correspond with the ideas in my book.
My own opinion is that it is a synthesis of BOTH plotting things out as well as writing from the seat of your pants that gives you the best novels as well as nonfiction books.
I will be writing some nonfiction ebooks in the next few months and I’ll definitely use this book as a guide.
Received as a review copy from Quill Driver Books.
From the moment I read the first sentence of Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern, I was absorbed.
Cara’s son, Adam, is a ten year old autistic boy who, at the beginning of the book, has disappeared from his elementary school grounds with a girl about the same age named Amelia. When Amelia is found dead in the woods behind the elementary school and Adam is believed to be the only witness, Cara is thrown into a whirlwind of trouble with the past and present converging.
I have a five year old daughter who was diagnosed as autistic when she was three. I completely sympathized with Cara in that regard. I know what it’s like to run your child here, there and yonder in order to get them the therapy they need, because I do it weekly. Most of the interactions between Cara and Adam, I could visualize—because I’ve been there. The head-banging, the lack of verbal communication, the tantrums… It’s all normal for me. What I enjoyed so much about this view of Cara and Adam was to finally realize that someone else GETS IT. Someone else understands exactly how I feel, my frustrations, my heartache, my anger.
This characterization was done brilliantly. I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of what Ms. McGovern said—especially when it comes to a short discussion of the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diet. It is included, as I would have rather expected it to be in a discussion of autism and treatments, but it is not a cure for all autistic children. One of the children in the book who is revealed to be autistic is stated to have been “on the road to recovery.” And, while a restrictive diet helps some children, it doesn’t even seem to affect others.
The plot was… Very convoluted. Bits and pieces of it feel contrived, as though the author was trying to make Adam’s autism just another piece of the puzzle, instead of the focus. Some of it feels unnecessary to the main plot and just a means of adding story to the novel instead of creating a slice-of-life sketch of what it’s like to raise an autistic child.
Cara doesn’t care who Adam’s father was—it could be two men she slept with around the period she conceived—and, initially wants to raise the baby by herself with a female roommate. The simple fact that she doesn’t care—at all—about who the father is felt unrealistic, especially considering one man is someone she barely knows and the other is someone she’s had a crush on since elementary school. While I can understand not wanting the father to know, I can’t quite get how someone can simply brush off knowing. For me, this makes her a much shallower character than I thought she was. My one question regarding this, as an author myself, is why? Why was it necessary to throw in a second man? Or perhaps she knew, but didn’t want the father involved because of the drama it would have added?
She has no friends outside of Adam. If he’s ten, he’s been in elementary school for five (or so) years now. She’s had the time to develop friendships outside the house. Instead, she’s shown as “Adam’s caretaker.” What does she do all day while he’s at school? She is nothing but her long-ago memories and Adam’s caretaker.
While it sometimes feels that way (and, believe me, it does), I would think that she would take the time that Adam’s at school to relax, to spend more “me” time with herself, and to do things that she normally wouldn’t do with Adam. The only time she starts thinking about her own needs, she considers asking the police detective out, thinking she could get a babysitter, no problems. If it’s that easy for her, I’d expect her to HAVE a life outside of simply taking care of Adam.
And, as for the resolution of the story? Well, it ends, at least. Not so sure I could figure my way out of the maze Ms. McGovern has created, but I’m okay with that. I’ve seen other reviews that weren’t real happy with the ending, stating it was too confusing, but you know what? I can deal.
This isn’t a literary masterpiece. It probably won’t be a well-known classic far in the future. But it kept me interested and on my toes throughout the entire book. Part of it was that I was fascinated by the relationship between Cara and Adam, a relationship that, in so many ways, resembles my own with my daughter (and all the joys and frustrations involved). The other was Ms. McGovern’s writing style. The point of view was third-person-present, and I was surprised by how engaging the writing was.
It’s definitely a book that I will revisit to see what worked—as well as what didn’t—to use in my own writing.
When I was 13, I found a book with the title Skye O’Malley in my mom’s closet. It had that standard “romance novel” cover with the muscular, long-hair...moreWhen I was 13, I found a book with the title Skye O’Malley in my mom’s closet. It had that standard “romance novel” cover with the muscular, long-haired man holding a woman in a classic Southern dress whose breasts were about to pop out over the top. Naturally, being curious as to what the book was about, I flipped through it.
Every page I turned to was filled with sex. And more sex.
When I asked my mom if I could read it, innocently enough I thought at the time, she said no and hid it. While she was at work, I found it. And read it. Well, at least, the good parts anyway ;) If the book actually had a plot, I was as oblivious to it as the author.
101 Best Sex Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad has sex on every page. But it’s nothing like Skye O’Malley. Honestly, I was a little afraid it would be. But the word “best” caught my attention and, since the author has a few other “101 Best…” books out, I thought that I would take the opportunity to read through it and see what he had in mind.
In the introduction, Mr. Conrad lays out that this book isn’t going to be filled with scenes to “titilate the reader.” Each was selected because the scene “advance[s] the plot in some way or helped to characterize the protagonists of the story they came from.” So what we actually have here are sex scenes that are intricate to the plot of the novel and not simply gratuitously placed on every other page.
The scenes chosen for this book are taken from a wide reading of literature. From Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterly’s Lover all the way to the scene from Deliverance (yes, THAT scene), the selections from the gamut of sex scenes in literature and are listed by topic in each chapter.
Mr. Conrad takes each scene and tells us what it does for the novel that contains it — and, in some instances, makes the reader want to either read — or re-read — that novel. He talks about what the scene’s place in the novel was, what it did for the story, and why the author chose to represent it the way they did.
At the beginning of each chapter, there is a quote regarding the chapter’s subject. Some of my favorites:
“By the time you swear you’re his/Shivering and sighing/And he vows his passion is/Infinite undying — /One of you is lying.” Dorothy Parker, Chapter 4: “What is This Thing Called Love?”: The First Time.
“The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.” Lord Chesterfield, Chapter 7: “Hah-hah, Was It Funny For You, Too?”
“Oral sex is like being attacked by a giant snail.” Germaine Greer, Chapter 10: Oral Exam.
“I shall be back in two weeks to embrace you passionately. Do not bathe.” N. Bonaparte in a letter to Josephine, Chapter 13: Ugh, E-e-e-uuu, and Gross.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m not a romance novel fan, but this book was far more interesting to me than romance fiction. The only thing that kept this book from receiving five stars was that I would have enjoyed a more thorough deconstruction of each scene. But, quite honestly, the scenes did indeed speak for themselves and Mr. Conrad provides enough information to make the entire book worth reading both on an enjoyment level and to revisit when considering writing a sex scene to include in one’s own novel.
I intend to keep this book handy for future reference because these are the types of sex scenes I would want to write in my own novels and this is a fantastic resource for understanding and examples.
You can find this book (and more like it) at Quill Driver Press. :) (less)