The Interestings Book Review

interestingsThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is a book about life and its endless possibilities.

When the novel begins, a group of six childhood friends are on equal footing; all of them have an artistic talent and the environment to nurture that talent. As we follow the group into adulthood we see those endless possibilities dwindle into a single reality. We see varying degrees of love, money, talent, ambition, and satisfaction and the roles they play in the lives of these six intertwined friends.

Comparing the outcomes of these six fictional lives is a small step away from comparing our own lives to our own peers. This novel, however, can show us that finding the perfect balance to happiness is not always as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Theme

The quote below summarizes this theme of the novel. The funnel however, does not stop after childhood, the funnel continues to narrow and squeeze with every choice we make.

“When you have a child,” [Ash had] recently said to Jules, it’s like right away there’s this grandiose fantasy about who he’ll become. And then time goes on and a fuel appears. And the child gets pushed through t that funnel, and shaped by it, and narrowed a little bit. So now you know he’s not going to be an athlete. and now you know he’s not going to be a painter. Now you know he’s not going to be a linguist. All these difference possibilities fall away.”

Book Cover

The Interestings is in the running for the best book cover. Although not particularly representative of the story, the attention it draws is undeniable.

4 Stars

If you are looking for pure entertainment, this book is not for you. However… if you let this novel plant seeds in your mind, and if you let your wandering thoughts water those seeds, you may find yourself emerged in something much larger and much more rewarding than a novel. 

One more good quote…

“Part of the beauty of love was that you didn’t need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all.”

A quote about love

“Part of the beauty of love was that you didn’t need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

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Pond Book Review

pondPond by Claire-Louise Bennett is a collection of tumbling thoughts. The first-person narrator is an odd, unnamed woman who the reader follows on a series of linked short stories that weave through the tediousness of her daily life. Although I enjoyed the quality writing as well as the unpredictability, the story could not hold my interest. The lack of plot was the main reason, as the story does not follow an arch, hold mystery, or hold much weight.

My favorite section of the book is below. Interesting on its own, but doubly intriguing as Bennett chose to keep her main character unnamed throughout the entire story.

“Names in books are nearly always names from real life and so already the reader is bound to have some knowledge about a person with a particular name such as Miriam and even if that reader’s mind is robust and adaptable some little thing about Miriam in real life will infiltrate Miriam in the book so that it doesn’t matter how many times her earlobes are referred to as dainty and girlish in the reader’s mind Miriam’s earlobes are forever florid and pendulous. It is very difficult, I should think, to make up a person and have everyone reassemble him or her in just the way intended, without anything intervening, and sometimes, as I read, the pressure exerted by so much emphatic character exposition and plotted human endeavor becomes stifling and I have the horrible encroaching sensation that I’m getting everything all wrong or that I’m absolutely oblivious to something fairly accessible and very profound.”

2 Stars

I would still recommend this book to someone looking for quality writing in a unique format. Although the book did not find my soft spot, it did receive rave reviews, and I have no doubt that to the right reader, in the right mood, this book could be a masterpiece.

A Visit From the Goon Squad

goon imageThere is an argument surrounding A Visit From the Goon Squad whether it is a novel or a collection of linked short stories. This gray area is a main reason I loved the story. It jumps in time, switches character perspective, and at times feels plain messy. Messy in a very tidy way. Just when I thought I was getting lost and confused, Egan would slip in a quick reference to time or character that would ground me again.

In a Nutshell

A Visit From the Goon Squad is not an easy plot to summarize. The main character changes from chapter to chapter. Often, a minor character in one story will become more prominent in the next. The settings range from New York City to Africa, from childhood homes to safari adventures.

Each chapter is a fresh start, a new story, but the thread that connects them makes them much more than if they were standing alone.

Music and Time

music-images-10The array of characters are mostly related to the music industry in some way. We connect with musicians and agents; missed talent and forgotten stars. The variety provides different views of the world and each one draws interest in their own way.

Time kills. I think Egan would agree. Every character is defeated, or at least beaten down, by time. We see hopeful talent that falls flat, golden memories tarnished by reunions, and optimism sours into demise.

5 Stars!

I read A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan several months ago and never posted a full book review until now. As it is an exceptional book that made my list of Favorite Books of 2015, I thought late was better than never.

The Romance of the Typewriter

I cannot pass by one without pausing to admire it. If it’s within reach, I cannot resist touching it. I trace the retro curves and mechanical angles before finally letting my fingers settle reverently on the keys. Glass and lacquer, enamel and chrome, Bakelite and celluloid – the keys are the most irresistible part of […]

via The Romance of the Typewriter – A Writer’s Ode — Live to Write – Write to Live

Bird Box: a book of suspense!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman is one of the most suspenseful books I’ve ever read. The intense mystery is set in the very first chapter and does not cease until the very last page.

The only comparable suspense novel I can think of is The Shining, and that is high praise.

A Strange, Strange World

birdboxIn the first chapter we meet Malorie and two four-year-old children who are trying to escape a life of terror to a place they can only get to by rowing blindfolded down a river for several miles. Why is her life filled with terror? Why does she have to be blindfolded? Why are all the windows on their house boarded up and covered? Why has Malorie not seen sunlight for over 5 years? Why does she never refer to the children by name? Where are all the people?

All these questions and more hook the readers’ curiosity and the intense danger Malorie feels is transferred to the reader. With every chapter, more answers are revealed but more questions also arise. Malerman reveals just enough to keep the reader understanding this strange world more all the time, but keeps the door closed on the biggest secrets until the very end.

Great Suspense Stems From Great Writing

Without giving too much away, I will tell you that the characters in this world refuse to open their eyes outside. This had two major effects on the writing: 1) sight was often lost, and the author deepened upon the other senses for description, 2) not knowing what could be right next to you, something dangerous, something deadly, adds a lot of suspense all by itself.

At one point, Malerman integrates counting into a suspenseful scene. Set outside in a world full of unseen dangers, the characters are putting themselves at risk every second they are outside. The counting draws attention to those danger-filled seconds ticking by.

5 Stars!

Without a doubt, Bird Box is the best book I’ve read so far this year. If you love suspense, horror, apocalyptic stories, or simply good writing, you should read this book!

Check out more 5 star books on my list of favorite books of 2015!

 

10 Rules of Writing

A random stroll through the library or bookstore can turn my whole day around. I love the randomness of the books that catch my eye, and trying to figure out why that title or that book cover drew me in.

10rulesElmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing recently caught my eye at the library because 1) we’re a list-loving society and 2) I’m a writer always trying to improve my craft.

The book is small, filled with few words and many illustrations, and can be read completely in 10 minutes. The advice is solid and witty. You may want to take another 10 minutes to read it again.

#3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. 

#4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”… 

These are ones I’ve heard many times but a reminder is always nice.

#9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things   —  I can’t agree more. There are certain authors I love but at the same time, I despise their lengthy paragraphs of description. Get to the point or I’m going to skip a few pages and then be frustrated when I realize later on that I missed an actual plot point!

Which leads us to the tenth rule of writing that can not be argued with…

#10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Obvious, right? But what are those parts and how do we, as writers, know when we’re boring our readers? Check out the book during your next local library stroll to get Leonard’s take on this.

 

Interesting Fact: This book was originally published in the New York Times in July 2001 as “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation  Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”.

I’ve been busy…

I have not blogged in a long time. My main excuse? Work has been insanely busy. I’ve been working 50-75 hour weeks for the last few months and by the time I get home at night I want to do nothing but crash on the couch, and lazily watch TV until I fall asleep.

Here is a general glance at my post-work priorities:

  1. Relaxation
  2. Family time
  3. Work outs
  4. Paying bills
  5. Reading
  6. Friend time
  7. Walking my dog
  8. Enjoying spring weather
  9. a bunch of other stuff…
  10. Blogging

You see blogging is at the bottom of the list. I’m proud to say that I have a lot of hobbies in life and when life gets crazy, blogging will get pushed to the bottom.

Long story short, work is slightly less crazy now and I’m expecting a slow summer which means my regular blogging will resume shortly!🙂

A Writing Style Comparison: Tobias Wolff and Dean Koontz

After reading Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, I wanted my next read to be lighthearted and plot based. So, I picked up an old Dean Koontz novel, By the Light of the Moon. The two books could not be more different. Of course genre plays a big part, but the difference in writing styles is striking.

Koontz’s writing style is heavy in description and his plot moves forward minute by minute. Wolff puts the bare bones on paper, jumping right to the action and cutting all unnecessary description, plot, characterization, ect. I don’t think This Boy’s Life contains a single wordy sentence. Koontz, on the other hand, loves lengthy metaphors and diving deep into characters’ thoughts, even during heated action scenes.

Koontz and Wolff are two of my favorite writers but their styles could not be more different. Reading their books back-to-back really opened my eyes to those differences. Let me show you some specific examples.

Opening Lines

Here are a few sentences that begin chapters in Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Koontz’s By the Light of the Moon.

Wolff

  • The sheriff came to the house one night and told the Bolgers that Chuck was about to be charged with statutory rape.
  • My father took off for Las Vegas with his girlfriend the day after I arrived in California.
  • When I was alone in the house I went through everyone’s private things.

Koontz

  • Shortly before being knocked unconscious and bound to a chair, before being injected with an unknown substance against his will, and before discovering that the world was deeply mysterious in ways he’d never before imagined, Dylan O’Conner left his motel room and walked across the highway to a brightly lighted fast-food franchise to buy cheeseburgers, French fries, pocket pies with apple filling, and a vanilla milkshake.
  • These were extraordinary times, peopled by ranting maniacs in love with violence and with a violent god, infested with apologists for wickedness, who blamed victims for their suffering and excused murderers in the name of justice.

What difference do you notice? Length? Who is more action-oriented? Who is more introspective?

 time-pass-by

Time

By the Light of the Moon: 140 pages into the novel less than three hours have passed in the plot with very little background/flashbacks. A high-speed car chase (not really a chase but a mission) that lasts approximately 10 minutes in real time, stretches 15 pages in the book. At times, I forget the chase was even happening because the side tangents and in-depth character thoughts were so dense.

This Boy’s Life: the plot skips large chunks of time, covering approximately eight years in total. In the following sentence Wolff captures the entire time frame of 7th grade (aka puberty): “I kept outgrowing my shoes, two pairs in the seventh grade alone.” Of course Wolff does go into normal-speed scenes in his memoir, but they are strongly action-based with little filler.

Which writing style do you enjoy more?

Does one style draw you in more than the other? Why do you think that is? I personally enjoy both. Certain months I relish the bare bones of Wolff, Carver, and the like. Other months I crave the second-by-second, in-the-mind-of-the-character stories of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and others.

Comment with two writers who are very different, yet you love them both. 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

TheMagiciansHarry Potter sets exceptionally high standards for all magician stories from here on out. It’s unfair to compare anything to Harry Potter but along with that, all the hype I’d been hearing about this novel set high expectations, and the novel sourly let me down.

The Magicians is about an 18-year-old boy from Brooklyn, Quentin Coldwater, who gets accepted into a secret, elite magic school called Brakebills. Quentin learns magic is very difficult and tedious. The learning process is intense and demanding.

Timeline

**Slight Spoilers ahead**  The novel spans Quentin’s entire 4 years at Brakebills as well as the year after. Large periods of time are summarized or skipped over.

Very little happened while Quentin was at school. He made friends, he learned magic (which was shockingly boring to hear about), and he lacked a plan for after graduation.

It wasn’t until Quentin and his friends graduated (3/4 of the way into the novel) that the plot takes an interesting twist. But by that time it was too late. I was already bored.

I certainly don’t need loads of action to enjoy a story but the main characters in The Magicians had no long-term goals or ambitions to keep me interested.

As a reader, this timeline made me feel very out of touch with the characters.

2 Stars

I didn’t connect with the characters. The plot was uneventful and I had no idea where the characters were headed or what they wanted.

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