Monthly Archives: January 2015
Hey TV lovers! Looking for a change of pace? A way to strengthen the brain, empower the imagination, settle the chaos of life? Read a book! Here’s a great list to get you to help you find a novel you’ll enjoy based on your TV tastes. Thanks to BuzzFeed for putting this list together!
Posting writing-focused book reviews is the most beneficial thing I did in 2014 to improve my personal writing (yes, even more so than completing NaNoWriMo in November. Check out my post on 10 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo) It forces me to be critical and attentive to everything I read. I uncover tricks the writer incorporates, I pick apart the structure, characterization and voice the author uses and determine how they strengthen the work as a whole. I also figure out what specifically makes me like or dislike a book.
When I started this blog last January, I thought it was going to be a way to share what I already knew about books and writing but I turned out to be the student, not the teacher.
So often when I sit down to write a book review, I’m still unsure what I want to write about or what I took away from the book but the process of putting my vague thoughts into words and paragraphs reveals characteristics about the story and the writing that otherwise would have dwindled away in my unconscious, never to be learned from.
All of these things help me understand my own writing and provide constant ideas to improve it. Understanding my likes and dislikes of the things I read has helped me understand what I want my own stories to be and what I need to include to ensure they would be a story I would enjoy reading.
I also love the fact that this blog has connected me to a wider writing world than I have ever been a part of. Big thanks to everyone who liked and/or commented on my posts!
If you don’t mind, I’ll reminisce on few special blogs from the past year:
My First Blog Post:
Blending Boundaries on a New Time-Travel Twist This book review on Stephen King’s 11/22/63 reads more like a college essay than a blog, but hey, I had to start somewhere. Thankfully I’ve adapted a more simple, sparse, and easier-to-read format.
The Maze Runner: A Deep Look into a Weak First-person Perspective Okay, so I didn’t cause a national uproar but this book review held very strong opinions and I was actually pleased that someone disagreed with me in the comments. I recently watch the Maze Runner movie (because my boyfriend insisted) and did enjoy it more than the book.
Also check out a few of my favorite posts from the year on the right hand side of my homepage!
Gone Girl will have you debating one question to the last page, and maybe even longer… who’s the hero and who’s the victim?
Amy Elliot Dunne disappears on the morning of her 5th wedding anniversary to Nick Dunne. The combination of strange circumstances surrounding her disappearance as well as his odd–almost casual–attitude, Nick becomes the main suspect of the investigation. Learning about Nick and Amy’s history through Amy’s journal entries and never-ending plot twists in the present time.
**There are slight SPOILERS throughout this review, but I will never give away the ending!***
The novel alternates perspective every chapter between Nick’s and Amy’s first-person point of view. Amy’s entries begin as journal entries, which provide the reader with backstory on the couple as well as a direct connection with Amy, who is missing during the present time of the novel. These journal entries have a lot of personality, flair, and intimate details. As the reader is falling in love with the precious, carefree Amy, more and more nasty secrets are surfacing about Nick in the present time.
First-person narratives typically have a reveal-all standard where the reader knows and sees everything the main character sees. That’s not the case with Gone Girl, where both characters keep secrets hidden even from the reader. Flynn cleverly informs readers that secrets are being kept without revealing what the secrets are, increasing suspense and curiosity to an extreme. One of my favorite lines in the novel is the perfect example of this, occurring about 15 minutes into Nick’s initial conversation with the detectives investigating his wife’s disappearance. He admits to the reader that he is lying but we have no idea what he has lied about. It made me want to immediately reread the section!
“It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting.” -Nick Dunne
Another single line in this novel inspired my to write an entire blog post around it! Check it out here: Side Characters are People Too
My favorite part about Gone Girl was that there were not one but two main characters yet neither of them were likable.
Because the novel alternates between Nick’s and Amy’s perspectives, we find ourselves with two main characters competing against one another for our trust. Although Nick’s situation initially makes the reader sympathize with him, we become suspicious as the cops continue to unravel his story. **SPOILER AHEAD** Trying not to give too much away, I will say that the huge plot twist halfway through the novel is perfectly timed and executed. As soon as Flynn has every reader ready to put Nick in handcuffs, a shocking twist reveals he may not be as guilty as the cops believe.
Be sure to read the novel before watching the movie (even more so than normal). Both are excellent, but watching the movie first will ruin the suspicion and suspense Flynn has so beautifully written. I wonder if I would have awarded this book 5 stars had I read it before watching the movie, but because I cannot reverse time and I knew what was coming the entire read, I will give it 4 stars.
Overall, its an excellent read that even the most casual readers will enjoy!
This article by A. Piper Burgi is a great example of what all writers should try to do. Explore the boring parts of writing (others as well as our own) and find a simple way to make it more engaging. Scratch out the unnecessary and enhance what remains.
Here is Burgi’s list of 60 words to replace “went”:
– pushed on
– stormed out
If you reguarly ask yourself the following questions (or others like them), this book may be perfect for you!
There are so many “Must Read” lists out there with so many titles, how am I ever suppose to decide what to read?
Does it really matter if I prefer reading on an e-reader vs a paper copy?
I just don’t get this stuff people call “great literature.” All these “cannon classics” are boring me to death. Do I really have to read these to be considered a well-read person?
Is rereading my favorite book/series over and over actually going to rot my brain?
These are the types of questions Alan Jacobs, English professor, answers in this book. There were certainly interesting ideas and sound advice within and readers struggling to find pleasure in reading could find this book is the key to allowing them to enjoy reading again.
I love reading. I read fiction, nonfiction, classic literature, popular fiction, poetry, short stories, and whatever else I find intriguing and I love it all. If I don’t love it (like this book) I put it down and pick up the next set of bound pages that hovers near the top of my reading list. And, I don’t fret over people judging what I read. I, therefore, did not find this book reassuring or helpful. I simply felt it a waste, taking over time I could be reading something much more interesting.
I’m not going to rate this book because I didn’t give it the fair chance of reading it all the way through. I didn’t enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t!
Here are a few options to get your mind spinning around your own (or a (semi) fictional character’s) New Year’s Resolution. Enjoy!
1. Make a list of as many resolutions as you can think of, the more the better! Big and small. They could last all year or bed completed in a single hour. Circle the resolutions that you would most like to complete this year.
2. Write the future scene of you accomplishing your New Year’s Resolution. Go crazy! You just completed a stellar goal!!!
3. Write a story about a character and his/her New Year’s Resolution. Are they able to reach it? Are they obsessed with it? Do they have a support system or is it a secret passion they are afraid to share?
Ping me back if you complete and post one of these prompts. 🙂
Halfway through the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a single sentence struck me so powerful, I had to flesh out my thoughts about it here. **Slight Spoilers ahead** but they won’t ruin the book/movie for you.
The wife of the main character, Nick, has been missing for five days. Foul play is expected but no hard leads have been found. The lead detectives on the case sit Nick down to ask him a few more questions. The “friendly” interrogation starts with the detectives asking Nick if he would like a lawyer. His internal dialogue explains why he denies the request. “I knew from my TV shows, my movies, that only guilty guys lawyered up. Real, grieving, worried, innocent husbands did not.”
Although the detectives do not accuse Nick of anything, all the questions point towards him being the main suspect. His lack of alibi, raising his wife’s life insurance policy, discussing their troubled marriage.
The last two sentences of the chapter are as follows:
“Maybe its time I got a lawyer,” Nick said.
The cops exchanged another look, as if they’d settled a bet.
Why that last sentence struck me…
It probably doesn’t hit you as hard as it hit me, but for the entire day, I couldn’t stop thinking about that sentence. Why? Because…
1. It makes the cops seem like very real people, not just the surface characters we see investigating the case.
Although the cops were by no means “flat” characters, this sentence reveals that they are much more than place holders. It alerts the reader that the cops are having secret conversations behind the scenes as well as withholding information.
2. First person point of view can be very limited and deceiving.
Because the novel is written in first person, the only time we see the cops is when they are talking to Nick. This sentence reminds readers that there is a full investigation going on but we only see a small part of, the part that Nick sees. This scene reveals a lot of information that the cops were previously keeping from Nick (which means the readers didn’t know about it either). There is a whole world of conversations, investigations, and information outside of what our narrator knows/shares.
3. It reminded me that even side characters have a full story.
This fact got me thinking the most. I love characters and I always strive to have real, full characters in my own writing but this sentence was jolting because it revealed a huge flaw in my own writing. Every character, no matter how small their part, has a full story and a round personality. To ignore those stories is to ignore the truth. I don’t want my main characters talking to generic, faceless people. I want them to be surprised by what other characters tell them and they should be. Every person has experienced different things and has a different way of looking at the world and their dialogue/action should reflect their individual self. Knowing the unique aspects of side characters begins by realizing they have their own story to tell.
Writing Prompt: Obviously this girl kneeling has a story, but what about that guy in the background? What’s his story?
I’ve been planning this post in my head for a long time. Why? Because I love sharing great books!!! I’ve read a lot of good books this year, check out all my Book Reviews here, but the books that made this list were exceptional!
The link on each title will take you to my previous post about the book.
My new favorite book! After dozens and dozens of published novels, Dean Koontz still pushed his limits and tried something new with The City. With the smallest amount of “science fiction” I have seen in a Koontz novel, The City was all about humanity, and the everyday courage, strength, and goodness of everyday people that typically get lost in the background.
The story, the writing, and the real-life insight this book possessed was unmatched.
It’s not too often I read children’s chapter books (let alone enjoy them), but I got lost in this fun, sic-fi tale. The main character, Nobody Owens (Bod for short), is raised by 18th century ghosts that linger in a local graveyard. Although the plot is quite dark (Bod lives with the ghosts because his entire family was murdered by people who are now after him), Gaiman keeps the mood very light and entertaining. Infused with ancient traditions and twists of sic-fi, The Graveyard Book is story all ages will enjoy!
This novel is a story of 100 teenage boys who are chosen to partake in the annual Long Walk, where they walk until they literally cannot take another step. The kicker? When they stop walking, they are shot on site.
The plot hides intense emotion, psychology, desire, and mental torture beneath an extremely simple plot. It was more than I ever expect any book to be and the simplicity of the plot made the thoughts it unraveled that much more shocking.
The moment I finished listening to this audiobook, I started it over again. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want it to stop.
I’ll admit it…I watched the movie before reading the book. But, like always, the book was 10 times better than the movie.
Of all the characters I read this year (hundreds, maybe thousands!), Charlie was far and away the most realistic. I felt like his letters were written to me and by then end, I wanted nothing more than to be his friend and tell him everything was going to be alright.
Koontz dives into non-fiction with this memoir about Trixie, his beloved, intelligent golden retriever. With every chapter introducing a new Trixie story, I was deeply in love with this dog by the end. Its a precious story any dog-lover will cherish.
I hesitated to add The Prestige to this list because I didn’t have the same emotional connection to it as I did with most of the above. The reason I did keep it on here was because the structure of the novel was my favorite of the year! Priest mixed an unlined timeline, journal-entry format, and different characters’ points of view. The twisted structure was the perfect match for the complicated plot and secret-keeping characters.
Once again I was tempted to leave this book off the list but ONLY because I finished reading it about a week ago and don’t know if it will linger with me like the rest have. Still, I think it deserves to be here. Lepucki is a master at keeping suspense high in this low-action plot. Although not a lot happened, the massive amount of mystery and tip-of-the-tongue secrets made me want to ignore the world and snuggle up with a blanket and this book.