Excellent book that emphasizes the character's inner journey through fears, flaws, lies they tell themselves, and eventually the cause -- a big dark mExcellent book that emphasizes the character's inner journey through fears, flaws, lies they tell themselves, and eventually the cause -- a big dark moment from their past that should only be revealed later in the story. This sets up for the ever-elusive, but oh so important cathartic ending, when the self-lie is put to rest, fears are overcome, and the hero has developed a new worldview.
Whether you've incorporated story models such as Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey, Blake Snyder's Save the Cat story beats, or others, there's still a need for this book, which, in my mind adds an important perspective and approach for building the ingredients that lead to cathartic endings. Highly recommended....more
Highly informative and well-researched book, though I would've liked to have seen some bulleted summaries or checklists to consolidate the key points.Highly informative and well-researched book, though I would've liked to have seen some bulleted summaries or checklists to consolidate the key points. Still, it was interesting to see the data that correlated key verbs for a lead character (e.g., a female protagonist who wants, needs, loves, etc.), and general traits (e.g., stories that highlight the human connection, take place in the here and now, and bring a certain world/career, etc. to vivid life) as being common denominators for mega-selling books....more
Chilling, Edgy, and Vivid… A Brilliantly Conceived Psychological Study
Victim of Denial opens with thirty-year-old protagonist, Victor Izes, hoping foChilling, Edgy, and Vivid… A Brilliantly Conceived Psychological Study
Victim of Denial opens with thirty-year-old protagonist, Victor Izes, hoping for release from the mental hospital to which he was sent a decade ago for the murder of his father (he’d been found not guilty by reason of insanity). But Izes, who’s been a model patient, is now quite lucid, remorseful, and apparently cured.
As the narrator of the story, he begins recounting the events that led him there, from his suburban, marijuana-fueled misadventures to his Ivy League education, borderline obsessive love, and ultimately to his descent into mental illness and the crime he now regrets.
His tale is told vividly and with raw candor--sometimes wrenching and sometimes comical, with wry, dark humor. Moreover, it’s juxtaposed against a long letter he receives from his ex-girlfriend, the object of his obsession and perhaps the only person who really understands him. Her letter also serves to gradually raise questions as to just how a reliable narrator he’s been.
The way his tale and the letter are interwoven is used to spectacular effect, and the title has multi-layered meaning. Yakov is a master of vivid detail, painting a vibrant, colorful, edgy, and sometimes surrealistic vision of one man’s fond and painful memories and how they relate to his current predicament. It’s a near miracle that Yakov was able to create such a relatable and sympathetic protagonist who’s also a murderer with a history of mental instability. The fact that he’s so lucid and fully self-aware, with an Ivy League education and a taste for art and music, makes him that much more fascinating.
Part coming of age novel and part psychological thriller, I saw elements of Rebel Without a Cause (especially in the relationship with the parents), Prozac Nation, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and maybe even a touch of Hitchcock’s Psycho in this impeccably written story.
Bottom Line: A fascinating, edgy, psychological study by a gifted author with a flair for poetic imagery and raw candor....more
Not long ago, I received and read an ARC of the paperback version of this book and thought it was extremely creative and well-written, which didn't suNot long ago, I received and read an ARC of the paperback version of this book and thought it was extremely creative and well-written, which didn't surprise me, having long been a fan of Paula Berinstein's podcast, The Writing Show. When I saw Allan Corduner provided the narration for the audio book, I had to give it a listen. Corduner is a masterful narrator and voice actor, and had narrated The Book Thief and served as the voice of Snape in the Harry Potter audiobooks.
The audiobook did not disappoint, and in fact I felt it brought a whole new life to the story. In Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy, which I'd describe as Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter, the young Amanda reluctantly enters a clandestine detective school for descendants of famous detectives, at her parents' request. Her ancestor is none other than Inspector Lestrade, of Sherlock Holmes lore. Not only is she embarrassed to be an ancestor of the police inspector that was always overshadowed and outsmarted by Holmes, but she really prefers to follow her passion, filmmaking.
Once she enters the school, things begin to change. She meets a colorful cast of students and teachers and gets caught up in solving a perplexing, real-life mystery. The readers will get caught up too, especially in the way Corduner brings the creepy environment and standout characters to life. It adds a dramatic flair that puts the story firmly in classics territory. I highly recommend this book for young readers, and for adults who have a fond nostalgia for Holmes or simply enjoy an engaging mid-grade mystery adventure....more
Vivid, funny, quirky, raw, edgy, sexy, touching, and, ultimately, life affirming. The lead character, wild-child college student Bree Yeager (whom oneVivid, funny, quirky, raw, edgy, sexy, touching, and, ultimately, life affirming. The lead character, wild-child college student Bree Yeager (whom one character likes to call "Brie Cheese") has a quick wit, a hilariously creative use of metaphors, and more than a little touch of unpredictability. The novel hooks you into her larger-than-life character's roller coaster journey from the beginning and doesn't let go.
The story takes her from a surprise stint modeling nude for a college art class to her misadventures working at a health food store (shades of Kevin Smith's "Clerks"), where she meets Dante, who she thinks is the love of her life. Waiting patiently in the background is her childhood guy friend, Jordan, whom Bree feels guilty about keeping firmly in the "friend zone." Meanwhile, her sister Jackie is making fortunes as a go-go dancer and tries to talk Bree into doing the same. Bree resists for a while (and her judgmental oldest sister, Mona, is a straightlaced type who's horrified at the mere thought).
Soon, all of those things change. Dante turns out to be a jerk. Bree realizes she really does love Jordan, who's since found a girl of his own. And a distraught Bree decides to take her sister up on the offer to dance, an experience that, like all Bree's adventures, is brought to life in glorious, unfiltered technicolor. Before long, she's gleefully back in touch with Jordan, who's temporarily overseas for school and has left his girlfriend, and she's back in art class (this time as a student) because it makes her feel closer to him.
With so many references to Shakespeare, courtesy of Bree's college classes, it seems only fitting that Bree's story soon takes a tragic and bittersweet turn worthy of the Bard himself. This sets her on a path of discovery as she teeters to and fro like an errant compass trying to find north. But any sadness is matched with a good dose of humor, and there are some hysterical, laugh-out-loud scenes that put "Sex and the City" to shame. Ultimately, it's the life lessons Bree learns that resonate most of all.
Thematically, readers of John Green's acclaimed book, "Looking for Alaska," will find some parallels, though this one is purely in the adult category. I can think of no higher praise than to say that this book rivals Greene's masterpiece in every way, no small feat.
The titular "hair tea" is a medicinal concoction Bree and Dante had been asked to contribute locks of their hair to in order to help a co-worker who was undergoing cancer treatment. It required a balance of the hair from two "yin and yon" souls. In a sense, the whole book is about finding balance, as well as embracing life in all its richness, and navigating the maelstrom of events that life likes to throw our way. Thus, hair tea is a metaphor that permeates the whole story. It also inspires the name of a salon that Bree's sister Jackie opens (and as it turns out, there are a selection of teas that are beneficial for hair... who knew?).
There are 70s, 80s, and 90s pop culture references galore, and if you're from the Philadelphia area like me, you'll appreciate that the typical Northeast Philadelphia life (and surrounding areas) is colorfully revealed in vivid detail, and with humorous observations. If John Lennon was writing a song about Philadelphia, one imagines (pardon the pun) that this is how he'd describe it. Bree's father and his supportive but sarcastically funny relationship with her and her sisters reminded me of actor Alan Arkin, especially some of the roles he's played as a snarky dad. He has some real zingers that will have you laughing out loud.
What can you say about a book whose lead character is equally comfortable referencing Shakespeare, The Flintstones, 80s rock music, ballet, bodily functions, drugs, go-go dancing costumes, old game shows, and more--and who laughs, cries, and loves with equal passion?
While Hair Tea is a quick and easy read (what one might consider a perfect beach read), you may want to take the time to savor this one and take in its flavors and spices, like a delicious meal or a fine wine. There's a lot here, deftly packed into a potpourri of life experiences. Moreover, there are no "boring parts" that you'd feel tempted to skim over, as the chapters whiz by with the economy of Elmore Leonard.
The author, Barbara Yakov, is a unique and gifted talent that I suspect will become widely recognized before long. It's hard to believe this is her debut book. It's fearless, engaging, heartwarming, provocative, and incredibly fun. I highly recommend it as an engrossing joyride of a book that you won't want to put down....more