Friday, December 31, 2010

This Book Will Have You Humming Beatles' Songs

I just finished The Girl Who Became the Beatles, a clever, fast-paced YA novel written by Greg Taylor.

Released February 2011, TGWBAB is a very fun read. It relates the story of Regina Bloomsbury, a teenage musican whose band The Caverns is on the verge of breaking up when the novel begins. When a member of the band very publicly & embarrassingly & definitively does break up the band, Regina makes a wish that she was as famous as The Beatles.

And it comes true. Sort of.

She wakes up in an alternate, wish-world universe where her band The Caverns has replaced The Beatles (though The Monkeys still exist, oddly enough), because, as it turns out, it's impossible to be as famous as The Beatles without being credited with having created their music.

Despite the wish-come-true cliche that the book revolves around, the book avoids, for the most part, feeling too cliched.

Regina is an interesting person to be around, rather than an annoying twit like many of the YA heroines, &, as I mentioned previously, the book is geniunely fun to read.

I was humming a Beatles tune in the shower (which has been happening, nonstop, since I began reading this book) & didn't even know it until my fiance told me it woke him up (whoops).

I highly recommend this book as a frivolous, fun read, for teenagers or for adults.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Love Letter to NYC

Hello. *waving arms frantically* Today, I am going to be reviewing Susane Colasanti's So Much Closer, a young adult novel that will be released May 3, 2011.

This was my first Susane Colasanti book. I had heard of her before - she's a well-known YA author, and I had heard flattering things about her before. This book didn't seem that great to me.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't that bad, either. It was somewhere in the middle.

The story is narrated by this girl named Brooke who's super smart - kind of. By super smart, I mean that she's really great at picking up concepts. She can do homework at the drop of a hat, without really trying. So she's a genius.

But she's a genius who does really, really stupid things - like intentionally get mediocre grades so that she'll "fit in." There's also some half-assed bullshit excuse for her reserved attitude - that when you get close to a guy, he dumps you. The backstory for that isn't fleshed out, but b/c the attitude towards the reader is somewhat reserved, as well, we don't really feel much impact from the few lines to such effect that Brooke tells us.

She doesn't have life figured out, and that's okay - she's in high school. Some people never figure their life out. It happens.

What's not so okay is that, at the beginning of the story, she lives in New Jersey with her bitter, single mother. & near the beginning of the story, she moves to New York City with the father she hasn't spoken to since he left her mom... because she's got a crush on a guy who has to move to New York b/c his dad got relocated.


You're a fucking genius who has been in a not-s0-healthy relationship before, and you think it's totally okay to move to a new city for a guy who barely knows you exist?

So it's kind of like the TV show "Felicity," but on cocaine, b/c this chick is in high school, and like that freaky obsessive chick in Twilight that everyone likes - what's her name? Bellows?


Because protagonist Brooke is so freakin' pretty & has that stand-off attitude, of course, everyone loves her. & she does succeed in getting her supposed "soulmate" whom she hardly knows to notice & date her.

So the novel involves finding herself, figuring out what she wants from life & that it was completely retarded for her NOT to take advantage of her intelligence to help her get to where she wants to be.

But mostly, the novel feels like a large love letter to the city of New York. There are descriptions of what parts of New York look like & how cool it is. Descriptions of why New York is obviously SO much better than New Jersey. The book is dedicated to the city of New York, because the author loves it & so created a character to portray that love.

The novel is a quick read, and if you don't get easily annoyed with the protagonist when he or she is a dumb ass, go ahead & give it a try. Otherwise, I recommend you pass on reading So Much Closer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I recently received an uncorrected proof, special ARE of Lisa Genova's LEFT neglected. Lisa Genova wrote the bestselling novel Still Alice. Her new novel LEFT neglected will be released January 2011.

This book is....interesting. The cynic inside of me secretly thinks that it's entirely possible this novel was solicited by the police in an attempt to get drivers to stop using cell phones while they're driving.

The book tells the story of Sarah Nickerson, a woman who lives in a nice neighborhood, has three children, and is a very successful businesswoman. She likes the challenges and power that comes with her job, she wants to be a great mom, and balancing things is a bit difficult, if not impossible some days. Basically, Ms. Nickerson tends to feel that she either isn't devoting enough time to her family, or that she isn't devoting enough time to her work, though she simply keeps going, trying harder, pushing herself further. All very cliched things that you've read plenty of times in fiction before.

While the book feels like it's going for a "& she had to re-prioritize when her husband Bob filed for divorce papers" or "& she had to re-prioritize when she was fired from her job due to recession cuts," the book ACTUALLY goes towards something completely different:

She had to re-prioritize b/c she was fumbling for her cell phone & ended up crashing her SUV on the side of the freeway, bumping her head & ending up with a condition called "Left Neglect."

Frighteningly, left neglect is an actual brain trauma injury where the person wakes up and forgets that the left side exists. To anything. Like, you're looking at your house & you only notice the right side of the house. But you also don't realize anything's missing. You think that's the way your house has always been.

This injury, of course, makes Ms. Nickerson pretty alarmed & frustrated & the majority of the book is about her recovering & realizing that her life is never going to be the same.

I would say this book is all right. It's not amazing, it's not particularly elegant, & Sarah can be pretty annoying. Most people, however, are annoying at one time or another, and waking up with a traumatic head injury is probably one of the best reasons for getting pissy.

I would recommend this book if you like books that revolve around the medical community or if you like chick lit or if you're really bored & can get your hands on it, for free. Otherwise... you might want to pass.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Are You Being HAUNTED?!

Or do you sit around pondering the philosophical implications of being haunted? And all of the ways that you can be haunted? Like, there's ghosts, but then there's also... being haunted by the guy/girl you're crushing on. What about being haunted by the future?

These are some of the initial reasons you might consider reading Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts.

Released January, 2011, this book is a great read to start off the new year.

It's not an amazing read. But it's easy to read without being mindless. It's fun, and intriguing, and filled with a cast of interesting characters. It has lots of inappropriate behavior. It even has a secret society.

Like Dan Brown, but, you know, good.

And the protagonist not insanely obsessed with not ruining his pair of loafers.

The protagonist is, instead, the financially handicapped John Holdsworth. After his son and wife tragically drown, Holdsworth finds that his business soon suffers, as well. Having little money, living in his former house with a friend and that friend's wife (the latter of whom makes it clear she doesn't want him in her new house), Holdsworth is kind of losing at life.

Then, a condescending rich old lady who wears too much white powder on her face says that since he's a bookseller, she will hire him to evaluate and distribute her library - if he also agrees to save her son, who is in an asylum b/c he thinks he's seen a ghost.

Her son, like many college boys, has been drinking, gambling, and copulating. Very shortly before he went insane, he joined one of those secret societies, & it was... so wrong.

Andrew Taylor specializes in historical fiction, and The Anatomy of Ghosts is no exception. This novel takes place in the late eighteenth century.

Overall, it's a mystery story. What happened on the night that Frank, rich powdery-white bitch's possibly insane son, was inducted into the secret society? On that same night, two women died. Were they killed? If so, who killed them? Why does Frank think he saw a ghost?

Or is it possible that he actually did see one?

(I know, but I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to read the book to find out.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What You MEAN to Say vs. What You ACTUALLY Say

Like most young Americans these days, I have an at least mild case of ADD, which makes me an epic channel flipper (& completely annoying to people who actually want to watch a show in its' entirety). As such, I don't watch a lot of commercials.

And then I watched a commercial the other day, and got a writing lesson, so I guess they're good for something other than making us want things we don't need except in a meaningless attempt to fill the gaping black hole created by American marketing that continually demands more THINGS. It was the family photo "cloud" commercial:

There is... so much wrong with this commercial. Yet the thing that irks me most about it is when the mother says: "Windows gives me the family nature never could."

Wait... WHAT?!

Seriously - who releases something like this around the holidays? Who greenlighted this commercial? Who WROTE THAT LINE?

It's horrible. It's Lois Griffin horrible.

To begin with, that woman has no place to criticize anyone when she's making her family wear those horrible matching plaid shirts. *shudder*

Second, as I've already mentioned, young America is known (and always has been) for the "fidget factor." We're impatient, and the "get it now" imperative that culture has been shoving down people's throats is only making it worse. So how can you reasonably expect your kids to remain perfectly positioned for numerous photos if you don't tranquilize them first?

Obviously, someone's parenting skills are nonexistent.

Now, I know that the holidays are hectic & crazy and that people get overwhelmed sometimes. But there's no sense of that in this commercial. Her family continues to sit on the couch while she tells them they're not good enough.

I'm going to assume that this impression is not what Windows meant to get across.

Because while the holidays are hectic & crazy, that's one of the things that makes them so fun & wonderful. You put effort into them to show the people you care about how much they mean to you - not so you can force them to wear hideous clothing & make them feel bad about themselves.

So while you're writing, keep in mind what your words are ACTUALLY saying.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Memoir About Loss

Let me preface this book review by saying that I don't ordinarily read very much non-fiction anymore & that I had never read a Joyce Carol Oates book before. I was curious, and I wanted to experience how the well-known Oates writes. So I requested, and was lucky enough to receive, her memoir A Widow's Story, which will be released March 2011.

My feelings towards this book are ambivalent.

I can see a lot of great things in it and about it, but I didn't really enjoy reading it.

The memoir details what the author went through and experienced just before, during and after her husband died.

The first thing I would say about this memoir, is that you immediately notice that Oates writes well, and is very intelligent.

It's clear that Oates is a literary person, both due to the way that she writes, as well as the references that she makes. She quotes and alludes to people and concepts that make it obviuos Oates has spent a lot of time in the world of academia. It's a little intimidating, but it also makes you feel good about your own seeming intelligence - the way she so blithely discusses the people/concepts/etc., it somehow seems implied that she thinks you will know who/what she is talking about - particularly when you actually do know who/what she's referencing.

The second thing I would say about this memoir - far too much use of stream-of-consciousness (for my tastes).

I can understand the use for stream-of-consciousness writing/rambling. Really. I have read it in great works of literature; I have used it myself, both in personal essays, and works of fiction. I understand that sometimes, a writer has to use it.

I can also understand why Oates uses it so consistently in her memoir. Suddenly, her brain is moving a mile a minute, repetitively - she's not thinking in complete sentences. Often, her brain may not even be coherently registering a complete thought, let alone think in complete sentences. It's all fragments and confusion - and stream-of-consciousness perfectly portrays that.

Just as it is difficult to live in a state where you're constantly overwhelmed with thoughts that are vague, unclear, and half-stated, however, it is also difficult for me to READ something that is written in such a manner, if it occurs for more than a few paragraphs. Oates used it a lot in the galley which I received, and after a few chapters utilizing it, my attention span began to wane. Dramatically.

The memoir also necessarily repeats - usually stated in slightly different ways, after awhile, it was glaringly obvious that Oates was repeating the same material. This means, of course, that she was also GOING THROUGH the same things numerous times - which is a true-to-life sentiment. It also means, however, that much of the memoir, if you're not interested in reading repetition, feels unnecessary.

The concept of the memoir is interesting, and I feel that if you like non-fiction, this book is probably something that you should check out. If you're generally a strict fiction fan, however, avoid this book, as it will probably not hold your interest for very long.

I will finish by talking about my least favorite aspect of this book - the omniscient writing.

Oates wrote a lot of passages that began with something along the lines of: "To the widow...," "The widow feels...," "The widow thinks..."

I guess this was so that widows reading the novel will feel like they're not alone.

To me, however, it felt pompous.

I mean, isn't every widowing experience going to be different? I felt like some of the things Oates claims "the widow" goes through were a bit specific.

Her book is entitled A Widow's Story - meaning, what SHE, specifically went through. As she's only one widow, it just didn't sit well with me, that she decided to be the spokesperson for all widows.

For those who have read Oates' work before - is her fiction different from her non-fiction? If I didn't like this memoir, is it unlikely that I will like any of her work, or was my dislike probably with regards to this book in particular? (I have a BURNING DESIRE to know the answer - it is as if my pants are on fire, and your answer is the bucket of water, poised to put that fire out - so please, be my fireman/firewoman, and toss some water/answers on me!)

A Widow's Story goes on sale March, 2011.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I recently devoured a book entitled Fated, written by S.G. Browne. And all I can say is "Wow."

Here is the cover:

Okay. Now that you know what to look for, go to your nearest bookstore, grab a copy off the shelf, and start reading. It's really that good.



For those of you unwilling to blindly rush to the bookstore and make a purchase based on the advice of a person you've never met, I guess I'll tell you a little bit more about Browne's book.

The book is narrated by Fate. Fate, you see, that abstract concept, is dealt out by an angel named Fate, who also goes by the name Fabio. Fate is buddies with Karma, gets help from Honesty, and is Enemies-with-Benefits with Destiny, amongst many other colorful, wonderful characters.

This book that is narrated by an angel, shows what humanity seems like to someone who's not human, but who has known a lot of them. There is a lot of "WTF are you thinking" as well as understanding and compassion, and all of it is funny at the same time.

This book made me laugh - a lot - actually out loud - and yet, it still had heart. It was relatable, while still being new and different and fun.

There was one thing I wasn't particularly a fan of - the ending. The very ending, as in the last chapter, there was a twist. I don't want to give it away, but I wasn't a fan of it. Despite not liking the very end, however, I still highly recommend reading this book.

It is books like Fated, you see, that make voracious readers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Mother is Hilarious

You know those times when you're texting someone, and you start spouting/typing nonsense b/c you don't want to seem boring? (Or is that just me?)

Well, regardless of whether it's a universal reaction or not, my mother totally gets it, as evidenced by this texting exchange that occurred the other day:

MomBot2010: How's it going Toots?

Me: Fine. How are you?

MomBot2010: Fine, thank you. I love you.

Me: Uhn uh. *shakes head*

MomBot2010: don't be crazy

Me: Yes. *nods vigorously*

MomBot2010: you crack me up. I miss hanging out with you.

Me: Me too. Miss hanging with you, I mean. (I hang w/ myself all the time... It's a li'l scary. I won't leave myself alone. Am I a STALKER?!) [inserted emoticon w/ shifting, paranoid eyes]

MomBot2010: you are one of a kind. I am so proud that you are my daughter.

And that is why I love my mom - no one else would respond with kind, comforting words to my craziness.

Also, in case anyone was wondering, my mom isn't a robot & doesn't use the pseudonym given to her on this blog entry. Although, if she was a robot, that might be kind of cool. Except spankings would have hurt like a bitch growing up. One more reason to be glad my mom is the way she is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNo Update

So now that pretty much everyone who has been writing every day is faring better than me - here's a quick update.

I am currently sitting at 5,858 words.

I got very, excruciatingly sick the second day of NaNo. I'm a big wimp when it comes to illness, and once I began vomiting, I knew I was in trouble. I have the stomach of an ox, if oxen have very strong stomachs. So in between making sure to get plenty of fluids and plenty of sleep, because my body has suddenly decided to get tired at the drop of a hat, it's been kind of hard to get writing in.

Plus, I was really hating what I was writing, though I love my idea, so I started over about a week in.

I'm trying to keep writing every day, but with the more important goal of getting healthy again (I'm still not 100%, or even 85%, unfortunately), I just don't think it's going to happen this November. I'm aiming to finish the first draft by the end of December.

I hope everyone else's NaNovel is going well, and sorry I've been mostly M.I.A. lately.

Any updates? Let me know how your current writing project (NaNo or not) is going!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"you were wrong" is oh so right

Today, I'm going to be reviewing you were wrong by Matthew Sharpe.

Matthew Sharpe's novel [you were wrong] is something I highly recommend.

A detective story of the oddest kind, where the mystery trying to be solved is life itself, which is sometimes too large, cruel, and ever-changing to seem anything but confusing. The book is narrated by a guy named Karl, who has been apathetic and coasting through life, until an event near the beginning of the novel causes him to realize what he's been missing... sort of.

Because Karl hasn't been participating in society for the entirety of his adult life, he doesn't really understand the subterfuge that people participate in on a daily basis. He's not an idiot, he's just innocent. Rather than interacting with other people his age, Karl has mostly been interacting with the high school students to whom he teaches math. Karl is actually somewhat of a math genius, and tends to try to understand the world in mathematical terms. This trait he has is endearing - Karl's sense of logic is impeccable, whereas his grasp of emotions is clumsy and incomplete. His innocence makes his fumbling with the situation unfolding throughout the novel confusing and large and interesting, like the adult world seen through the eyes of an extremely precocious child.

Released at the end of August this year, you can pick up a copy at amazon, find an independent bookstore to purchase it from at indiebound, or, of course, pick up a copy at your local Borders or Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NaNo 2010

November is once more near, and with it comes the challenge to write a first novel draft of at least 50,000 words.

If you're accepting the challenge, as well, make sure to let me know your username, so we can spur each other on to the final word count. :)

The other day on Twitter, I said I was "outlining" my NaNovel. This was somewhat of a lie, as I suck at outlining, and ended up with just a bit of brainstorming.

My idea this year is to write a story about and entitled "Road Rage."

My narrator will be a young, rich female (currently unnamed) who lives primarily in the Midwest b/c her parents think this is a better place to raise kids. I say primarily, because in the summers, her family vacations in a mansion on their own private island off of the Southern California coast.

With all of that money, she doesn't necessarily have an accurate conception of life and how it works.

I think I'm going to open the novel on an incident in which the female narrator wrecks her car in - you guessed it - an incident of road rage. Her parents fight over the number of accidents she has been in and whether she deserves a new car. (Dad is for; mom is against)

As a result of their argument, the narrator is introduced to Pierre, a guy a few years older than she, who uses a phony French accent around her parents and smokes copiously when they aren't around.

And then...

So what do you think? Do you like the idea? Dislike it? Have any ideas as to names for any of the characters, save Pierre? Do you think first person narrative is a good idea? Or would 3rd person work better?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Talk About the Kids

So... I have been crazy busy. I've still found time to read, because that's one of my relaxations & escapes, but I have been getting behind on reviews. So today you get a 2 for 1 deal! That's right - I'm going to review TWO books in ONE blog entry! Do you feel special? Because you are.

The two books I'm going to write about today are:

Museum of Thieves

and Radiance

Both of these books have been written for a middle-school aged audience. Both books felt appropriate for that age group.

I will look at Lian Tanner's Museum of Thieves first.

Tanner's book is a fantasy. It primarily follows the activities of Goldie, a young girl who is always getting in trouble in the over-protective society she lives in. The adults in the community, frightened by all of the horrible things that can't really be explained but just exist (i.e., plague, children dying, etc.), have allowed their freedoms to be quashed in order to be protected.

This book did a really good job of pointing out that kids need to be kids. That it's good for them to have enough freedom to find strength and have fun. That it's bad for them to feel like their life is in peril at every turn. For while bad things do occasionally happen, the good things don't often happen, either, if you only focus on protecting yourself.

I liked the characters in this book. I liked the world that Tanner created. I liked the messages, and I had fun reading this book.

Now, on to Radiance, written by Alyson Noel. You've probably heard of Noel's Evermore. It's the first in a series of books, none of which I have read, but which have sold well.

Radiance was my first Noel novel, and it was okay. I think it would mean more to the teens who have read Evermore and are avid fans of that series, as Radiance follows the adventures of Ever's younger sister Riley after the car crash that left Ever pretty much all alone in the world.

Riley is understandably upset that her life has been cut short because she wasted the time spent on Earth hounding her sister, and now she will never have boobs. That's kind of this book in a nutshell.

Riley is learning how to be dead, which is remarkably like being alive, except that you can materialize shit and have whatever kind of awesome wardrobe you want. Really, I found this book somewhat depressing.

"Don't worry about your life getting cut short. You still get to go to SCHOOL in heaven! & you get assigned a JOB! It's pretty much all of the soul-sucking shit people hate on Earth, but it's NEVER-ENDING because you're dead now!"


Anyway, Riley was probably a realistic tween, which means that she got on my nerves. She was impulsive, disrespectful, and somehow, amazingly good at everything, anyway.

I don't really recommend Radiance unless you're a big fan of the Evermore Immortals series and want to round out your collection. It's okay, but I much preferred reading Museum of Thieves.

Both of these books are now on sale. Have you read them? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is Family?

If you asked a five-year-old this question, the child would have no problem answering it - family is the people who live with you at home, the people you're related to, the people who love you. The words would roll glibly off the child's tongue, and the child could return to its' play. As you grow older, however, the answer seems to grow increasingly complex, and the words don't always come as easily as they did when you were five.

"What is family?" seems to be the question asked repeatedly in Jennifer Vanderbes' novel Strangers at the Feast.

Strangers at the Feast is the story of a family gathering on Thanksgiving, 2007. It is told through the voices of many of the family members, as well as a black boy named Kijo is breaking into a house that Thanksgiving. The voices are interlocked, and the perspective changes frequently -- it could be dizzying, and hard to handle, but instead, it works together beautifully.

This book makes you ask yourself: "What is family?" It also causes you to wonder: "What if?" With all of the different opportunities to make choices in your life, how can you be sure you've made the right choice? And does it matter if your choice was the correct one or not?

I opened my blog post with the idea that to a child, the answers to questions that can really make us think as adults sometimes seem ridiculously easy to answer. I find it interesting that the only child's perspectives we receive in the book are flashbacks from characters who are now adult - and there aren't many where the adults are thinking back on a time when they were truly children.

I adored this book. It is written clearly, elegantly. It is interesting, it contains detail, it makes the reader think. Overall, this book is one that I highly recommend to anyone who is looking for good writing, as well as enjoyment.

One of my favorite qualities of this book is that it makes you think about very difficult issues, provides many perspectives on those issues, but doesn't really give a definitive view as to what perspective is the correct one.

Have you read this book? Did you like it? Why or why not?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

While some people secretly indulge in masturbation (in the living room with their friend sleeping next to them on the couch: or more dangerous activities such as self-inflicted harm, I am referring to the comparatively tamer pleasure of enjoying a book that's not very well-written.

We all have a few, right?

As a former fan of the Sweet Valley High and Fearless series(es), I probably shouldn't ever poke fun at what others read (but, of course, still do. Frequently).

For a long time, Stephen King was a guilty pleasure for me. I have recently come to terms with my love for the King, even writing a few blog posts about what an idiot I was previously. The best thing about guilty pleasures, however, is the ways that our mind attempts to find reasons that it's totally okay for us to like these things we think, for whatever reason, we shouldn't like.

If you're a more sophisticated person than me, you probably shrug, say: "It's not very good, but I like it," & continue to indulge yourself.

If you're of a more crazy variety (possibly like me, though I don't think I'd admit to it), you probably come up with "theories" explaining your liking for your guilty pleasure.

All of this babble is an attempt for me to explain my theory as to why Stephen King is the modern-day Shakespeare.

It sounds pompous, I know.

The Bard:

Stephen King:

It might be a little pompous. But I haven't had anyone shoot it down, yet, so my theory still flies around in my brain. (So if you're going to shoot it down, be gentle, lest you cause my brain to hemhorrage.)

My theory mostly has to do with quantity. I am amazed at the sheer amount of work that these two men have managed to create (for King, thus far) in their lifetimes.

Both Shakespeare and King are fairly literary. They were/are smart men who were/are well-read. (From henceforth, I'm going to refer to both Shakespeare's & King's qualities, attributes, & accomplishments in present tense.) They know how to make allusions, and to what they should allude.

Shakespeare and Stephen King also both write about the world in which they live. When you read The Dead Zone, you're reminded that things like speed limits on the highway, and a drinking age of 21 are relatively recent additions to United States law. You can imagine, 200 years from now, people reading King's books in history class, both because it was popular literature, and because it describes the time period we live in very well.

I think Shakespeare and Stephen King are good writers, but not amazing ones. My reasoning for this is probably entirely superficial - it's too easy to understand their work. Maybe I don't get all of the allusions made, but I also don't feel like I have to read a sentence twice to comprehend the meaning, or even just take in its' beauty again. Personally, I have never had trouble exchanging "thee" for "you" in my head, and so Shakespeare has never really seemed like a huge deal to me. I read a book like Nabakov's Lolita and think to myself: "Wow. That was amazing. I will have to read that book again." I read Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and think to myself: "Wow. Those two were so STUPID. Just like my 18-year-old sister with her boyfriend-of-the-month." Both works have good writing, both works made me feel something, but Shakespeare and King don't make me think as much as I think a literary work needs to in order for me to hail it as something that NEEDS to withstand the test of time. There are the works I WANT my future children and other people's children to go on reading because they open your mind to new possibilities. And there are works like Shakespeare and King that I know my future children and other people's children will read because you can't go into a bookstore without seeing works by those authors, and so they will have some sort of opinion on the authors, just as I do.

With the amount of words that King has had published, I think the likelihood of his work surviving is high, just as Shakespeare's words have thus far survived -- and this is why, in my mind, King is the modern-day Shakespeare.

What is one of your guilty pleasures and/or conspiracy theories? I would love to read it/them in the comments below...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Who the hell cares about vampires anymore? Give me werewolves...

Today, I am going to be looking at a young adult book entitled Nightshade. I was lucky enough to receive an advance uncorrected galley, but the book itself will be released in October of this year, 2010.*

Nightshade was written by Andrea Cremer, a history professor who lives in Minneapolis, home of the Mall of America.**

To summarize, Nightshade is the story of Calla, a "guardian"*** who is very beautiful, has a pack of friends (also werewolves) over whom she presides, has been engaged to a very hot, very popular boy named Ren her entire life, and is fine with her life of glorified slavery until...

...she meets another cute boy named Shay.

I loved this book. I honestly wasn't expecting to like it very much, but I read it in its' entirety in two days.****

Andrea Cremer did a wonderful job of writing teenagers who are teenagers, rather than precocious pseudo-adults or annoying twats who learn all of their SAT vocabulary from bloated novels about sparkling vampires. Her teenagers seem like teenagers who are still interesting to those of us who aren't teenagers anymore.

At the same time, Mrs. Cremer writes about so much more than a group of teenagers and how they interact, entertaining as such subject matter is on its' own merit. In her writing, and the pact society she has created, Mrs. Cremer writes about feminism, and the importance of freedom as opposed to the easiness of tradition.

The complexity of this novel, paired with the wonderful characters whom the reader comes to know and care deeply about, make Nightshade a must-read.

So make sure you read it.

*Unlike L.J. Smith's Strange Fate, which I am STILL waiting on. I'm beginning to think her publishers just hate me.

**This is probably weird, but that is seriously the only thing I ever remember about Minneapolis, Minnesota.


****which, considering that it was in the middle of the work week, is quicker than it sounds

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

First Impressions: Jodi Picoult

So because I occasionally read another blog with an awesome name, I decided to try reading a Jodi Picoult book.

I had never read her work before because, quite frankly, I had seen a Lifetime movie based on one of her books called "The Pact," and it was really, really horrible, despite having the funny chick from Will & Grace, and I didn't think that the woman who wrote the book that inspired it was my style.

BUT, I trust Possum, who recommended her work to me.

To be fair, it was not as horrible as I expected. At the same time, I did not consider her work to be genius, nor particularly probing.

Jodi Picoult is lauded as a writer who makes her readers really think about difficult issues. So I guess I was expecting something new while I was reading Salem Falls.

In a nutshell, Salem Falls deals with the topics of rape and witchcraft.

I wouldn't say that Picoult dealt with it in a horrible manner. I thought she was sensitive, and I thought that she did a pretty good job of showing multiple facets of rape.

I also, however, thought her book was fairly predictable. The very end of the novel feels like it's supposed to be a twist, something the reader didn't see on a first reading. Well, I saw it, and I saw it within the first third of the novel, which is relatively early.

I did like that the ending wasn't quite so black and white. I was kind of expecting that all of the bad guys were going to be outed, and that the good guy (there was really only one) was going to be exonerated, and if the book had ended that way, I would be decrying it as a piece of unrealistic tripe.

Overall, I can see why Picoult is a bestselling author. Really, I can. It's because she writes like a romance writer, but one who can pretend her books aren't just about love and happy endings and sex. The core of her novels, however, is that love is redeeming. That it "lifts us up where we belong" as some idealist once sang. It's a nice message. Picoult doesn't present it in a very interesting way, however. She presents it in a predictable way.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Infinite Days of Mediocrity

Today I am going to be reviewing Infinite Days, by Rebecca Maizel.

So basically, the premise of the novel is how would someone who was made into a bloodsucking monster during the Middle Ages respond to suddenly being a human, teenage girl again during nowadays*?

This is a very interesting idea, and worthy of exploring. In fact, I liked many of the ideas in Maizel's novel.

The writing, however, was not of superb caliber. Occasionally, I got glimpses of beautiful writing from Maizel, but they were few & fleeting.

I thought the characters were fairly flat and uninteresting. Occasionally, they said something funny, but reading the novel, I could tell that Maizel thought she was being funny far more often than I did.

This book is okay. No masterpiece. I slogged** through it. I felt like the ending was preposterous. I didn't particularly care about the main character, though it is her story line that drives the novel.

My verdict: very interesting ideas & very poor execution.

*And in case anyone else is wondering, it's a word:

**Yep. This one too:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The King, Part II

I previously wrote about my first experience reading Stephen King, which was horrible. Cujo was not frightening, in the least. As a result, I became condescending towards those I caught reading his work.

My first experience reading Stephen King occurred the summer between fifth and sixth grade. Once I had read my first Stephen King, the snowball effect occurred. At garage sales, when I spotted a Stephen King book, I asked my mother if I could read it, more to push the envelope than out of interest for reading his work. Despite my predisposition for becoming frightened, my mother became increasingly lenient, and tended to say "yes."

So even though I didn't think highly of King's writing, it was available to me, and at times, was the only material available to me.

Thus, a combination of boredom and ready availability resulted in my reading more Stephen King books, such as:

Christine, a book about a car that possesses and destroys people.

Thinner, a tale about this asshole who pisses off a gypsy and is cursed to waste away:

Then, one winter when I was in high school, my entire family got sick -- except for my father, who hardly ever becomes ill. One by one, my siblings and mother became ill and ran for the bathroom so that they could retch into the toilet. (Coincidentally, this was the last year that my family ordered a ham for the annual Christmas dinner.)

I went to bed still feeling relatively healthy. I awoke from my slumber in the middle of the night, made my first of several trips into the bathroom, and spent the majority of the evening attempting, and failing, to find a comfortable resting position.

Whilst huddled miserably in my bed, I read one of Stephen King's great novels: Misery. His novel about a writer who is trapped with his "Number One Fan."

I adored this book - reading it is my happiest memory of that particular Christmas, despite the fact that my stomach and head ached.

Misery convinced me that Stephen King occasionally wrote well... I could understand why some people read Stephen King. Occasionally, at least, works that were very enjoyable were created by The King.

I wasn't as much of a snob, anymore.

Preview: My next post about Stephen King will also discuss Shakespeare...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

On Material Belongings

I recently read a tiny book entitled Proust's Overcoat, originally written by Lorenza Foschini, translated by Eric Karpeles --

This slim volume recounts the obsessive need of collector Jacques Guerin to possess the former belongings of Marcel Proust. Letters, first editions, furniture... anything that was once important to, or written by Proust, Guerin wants to see, touch, and experience.

Basically, Guerin was rich, having inherited a perfume company his mother made great, and he thought Proust was a genius. Guerin also met Marcel's brother, having become ill, and luckily having physician Robert Proust visit his house to check on his health.

This contact with Robert Proust, and seeing a draft of Marcel's work, inspired a passion in Guerin to see all of Marcel's things.

The overcoat, being one of Marcel Proust's trademarks, basically something Marcel LIVED in, even in warm weather, is the coup de grace.

This book is an interesting look at what the material things left behind say about the person who used to own them, and the importance of those belongings to the people who cared about you.

It was interesting, it was informative, and it read very quickly.

I think this book would be great for Proust admirers, or as a quirky gift to someone else. It will be released in August of this year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Don't Usually Blog About Myself

But I can't keep quiet.

My boyfriend asked me to marry him -- and I said yes.

No date or plans made yet, just excitement. Lots & lots of good feelings & excitement.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: Mr. Toppit

A few days ago I finished reading Mr. Toppit, the debut novel by Charles Elton.

This novel has already been released, and done very well, in England, and is slated to be released in the U.S. in September of this year.

Mr. Toppit is the story of a children's book series, written by a man named Arthur Hayman. The protagonist of the series is based on Arthur's son Luke, and after Arthur's death, and an American woman's influence, the books become bestsellers. The remaining Haymans - Luke, his mother Martha, and his sister Rachel, then have to deal with the sudden fame. The allusion to the Winnie the Pooh franchise is noticeable, although Arthur's series is supposed to be a quite a bit darker. The title of the novel comes from the overbearing, unseen antihero of the novels, who consistently gives Luke tasks that cannot be fulfilled to Mr. Toppit's satisfaction.

Overall, when I finished the book, I did not feel like it was one of the most amazing books ever written. I did feel, however, that it was entertaining, that it wasn't predictable, and that it was addicting. I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know what crazy things were going to be said and done next. I sympathized with Luke, and I was not expecting the fitting ending. I kept reading because I wanted to keep reading, not because I felt like I had to in order to write an adequate review.

Mr. Toppit is a dark novel, in which the characters act like real people. Some of the things they do don't make sense, and those that do make sense are often slightly horrifying.

It is an entertaining read, and I recommend it. I think it is interesting, slightly depressing, and the characters stay with you, both while you're reading the novel and afterwards.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The King

My first experience with The King occurred the summer after fifth grade. I had begged and begged my mother to allow me to read Stephen King novels throughout fifth grade, my reasoning being that Kit Macaroon * was allowed to read Stephen King, & I was much smarter than she**.

My mother always steadfastly refused - her reasoning being that Stephen King wrote horror stories, and that I am easily frightened. She liked to cite the movie "The Witches," which is based on a Roald Dahl book, which is meant to be a comedy, but gave me nightmares for years. (I also might, possibly, have received nightmares from the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas.")

So okay, I was easily frightened at the tender ages of four and six, but I argued that I was more mature, at the age of eleven.***

My mother didn't believe me.

Then finally, the summer after fifth grade, as the family wandered around in some stranger's garage perusing their old belongings to see if we wanted to buy anything, I found a bright orange, hardcover copy of a book entitled Cujo, with that yearned for name, "Stephen King," printed in bold letters on the spine.

25 cents

How could mom say no?

I ran to her, excitement radiating from my being, and showed her the book, begging to please, please, please be allowed to read it.

After thinking for a moment, my mother said "okay." This book, she said, was not too scary. She would let me read it.

I began reading the book on a hot, bright summer day, sprawling out on the grass beside our driveway.

And I was disappointed.

At this period of my life, I was under the impression that any prolific author must, by definition, be amazing. After all of the build-up to how frightening Stephen King was, reading a book about a rabid dog was a let-down. I also wasn't frightened.

Due to this experience, I went through a period of quite a few years where I decided that The King wasn't really that great a writer. I looked down on those who found his writing addicting, who owned more than a few of his books.

That one bad experience colored my view of the author for years. Have YOU ever had an experience like that?

*The name has been changed to protect privacy.

**I realize this is pompous reasoning, but it really was exactly what I said to my mom.

***This, of course, was a complete lie, whether I realized it or not.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Okay, this Book Really IS at least Partly about Sex

Today, I am reviewing Permanent Obscurity, by Richard Perez. He has a really cool website set up that details his inspiration for the book, and some of the ideas behind it. His book is concerned with some graphic subject matter - chiefly, drugs, sex and massive alcohol consumption. My feelings toward this book are somewhat divided.

I will begin with the cursing. The book primarily takes place in some not-very-nice parts of New York city. It makes sense, then, that the characters swear profusely and have a crude sense of humor. Initially, however, I was having trouble with the book because of the manner of speaking. I don't expect perfect English in novels - people don't talk that way, so neither should fictional characters. I understood WHY the characters talked the way that they did - still, it put distance between me as a reader and the characters, and made the characters less sympathetic.

On a related note, at times, when characters were joking, I wouldn't have known if the author had not specified it. The author may have been doing this on purpose, in an attempt to show that the characters are so inebriated that the things they find humorous aren't really funny. Again, it created emotional distance between myself and the characters.

Now, I will talk about the characters. Obviously, most of them do drugs and drink profusely. Most of them also consider themselves artists, and a big theme in the book regards art. There are the artists who ignore their calling in favor of a regular, 9-5 job so that they can afford to pay rent and buy food. There are the artists who have crappy, low-paying jobs so that they can continue to create art, but who usually favor getting wasted instead. Then, there's Serena. Serena is the protagonist's "best friend." She is a performance artist, but her band's not doing that well. As a result, she picks up some kinky modeling work. She also seems to live off of her male friend, whom she dominates, and whom she doesn't particularly seem to care about.

Serena seems to be one of those charismatic people who gets away with a lot of bullshit for a really long time because those who are close to her are hypnotized by her charm. Her life has been hard, and she has rather sociopathic tendencies, as a result.

Most of the art created by the characters in this book is pornographic in nature. Throughout the book, the idea of the protagonist and Serena creating a fetish pornography film is discussed, planned, and ultimately, carried out. The idea of the slippery slope with regards to modeling, stripping, etc. is introduced and/or implied several times.

The book is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, both with regards to subject matter, and in terms of an unreliable narrator. Ultimately, the book ends with several serious questions.

I will say that the last 100 pages or so flew by. Pairing that with the admittedly slow-going beginning, I would say that overall, the book is okay.

I feel that the author probably accomplished what he was aiming for. The book just wasn't as interesting as I thought I would find it. It did raise some questions that I like thinking about. Then again, I wasn't particularly fond of the narrative tone. Overall, I found this book okay. I'm not sorry that I read it, but I don't know that I would read it, again.

To the right person, however, this book would be amazing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Beautiful Cover Lies

I recently received an advance uncorrected proof of Jenna Black's Glimmerglass. Here's a picture of the cover, which is gorgeous:

Glimmerglass is the first book in a young adult fantasy series. Chronicling the adventures of a teenage girl named Dana, this book follows her from whining about her alcoholic mother to whining about being in Avalon to whining about her father to whining about missing her alcoholic mother to whining about more stuff.

As you might be able to tell, I was not a big fan of this book. The plot was okay -- the plot actually dealt with some pretty interesting ideas. What I came across was something I come across a lot in fantasy: I didn't care about the characters. I've written before about the importance of caring about a character, for me. In the case of this book, I do not feel that the characters take a background to the story and the world-building, however.

I feel like most of the writing is simply not as sympathetic as the author wants it to be.

Having an alcoholic mother and constantly being on the move is hard. Not knowing a parent is hard. Running away is a stupid action that usually doesn't turn out the way a teenager thinks it will.

But I just felt like Dana was whining.

I feel like the writing needs to be refined, like this book should have been further revised.

Then again, I wasn't a huge fan of Twilight, either, and that's a bestselling series. And Twilight has a teenage protagonist who is insecure and annoying and boring, but people love it. And Twilight is a fantasy novel with an interesting plot that could stand to be revised. I do think Twilight is slightly better written. The Glimmerglass plot moves along quickly, but it's not effective due to the way it was written - it feels hurried. There's a lot that happens, but it all feels too fast.

The cover's awesome, but I recommend a pass on buying this book. I think Jenna Black is going to refine her writing. This book has a lot of good elements, but it's not all put together well yet.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Title Alludes to SEX (Kind of, sort of, maybe)

The Book: The Lovers
The Author: Vendela Vida
The Cover (at least, of my uncorrected proof):

The link (to the publisher page w/ information about the book and pre-ordering)

The thoughts:

The Lovers is the tale of a woman named Yvonne and her trip to Turkey.

Yvonne is alone. Literally, she has no traveling companion. On a related note, as the novel progresses, her relationships with family, friends & acquaintances are examined, as well as the idea of relationships, in general.

While in Turkey, Yvonne befriends a young boy who sells shells on the beach (thus the picture on the cover of the book). This friendship is at one point compared to two people in a romantic relationship - an observation by a character in the book, not by the narrator. This passing remark sticks with the reader, both because of the book's title and the fact that numerous romantic relationships in the book have been mentioned. Yvonne and her young friend, while in no way romantically involved, get along in a way that none of the romantic relationships in the book do, but in a way that many romantic relationships are portrayed in the media.

I adored this book. The writing was concise - Vida utilizes her words beautifully. She writes simply about complicated manners, and the result is a poignant novel that stays with you after you've finished the last word. I love that this book makes the reader think and that it's well written - and I think you'll love that about this book, too.

The Release Date: July, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stephenie Meyer Spells Her Name Wrong AND Rips Off Popular Stories

Though I watched the first season of True Blood almost a year ago, I didn't get around to reading Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark until this week. For those who have been woefully ignorant thus far that True Blood has a literary predecessor, the popular television show is based on the popular "Sookie Stackhouse" book series.

(On a random side note, I like this cover so much better than the original cover art.)

The series is told from the point of view of a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, and the strange way things unfold when a vampire openly moves into the small Southern town where she lives.

Yet the reason I'm blogging about it is because it felt really, really familiar. Not just because I had already seen the first season of the television show. It felt familiar because I had already read Stephenie (seriously, what's with the spelling?) Meyer's Twilight.

Both novels have a primary character who can read minds. Both novels have vampire characters who gleam. Both novels have, as protagonist, a beautiful young girl. In both novels, the beautiful female protagonist has two supernatural suitors, one of whom is a vampire, the other of whom is a shapeshifter.

I know I've touched on this issue previously, but those are a lot of similarities between two bestselling book series. You've got to wonder if Stephenie Meyer's "dream" coincided with reading a certain book by Charlaine Harris.

Having read both books, I prefer Dead Until Dark. It's got all of the fun, addicting romantic stuff that's in Twilight (in a more realistic fashion, thank God), but has sex and violence aplenty. I've heard creepy stuff about sex being in the young adult series further down the road. Harris' series is more mature from the beginning.

I wouldn't say that Dead Until Dark is amazing, or a must-read. It's entertaining. It's got its' pros and cons.

I would say that it's disappointing that one of the biggest "pros" in Stephenie Meyer's favor - creativity - has proven to be nothing more than a dilution of the already popular ideas of a better writer.

And reading Dead Until Dark brought a question to the forefront of my mind: when does the number of similarities between two works of art become too great for the differences to matter?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Juliet

I recently received an ARC of Anne Fortier's Juliet, which is going on sale August 17, 2010. Here's a link to pre-order the book. Update: image of the cover -

My feelings towards this book are ambivalent.

As you might have guessed, the title alludes to the female half of those famous star-crossed lovers Shakespeare wrote about. When the aunt who raised her (and her twin sister) dies, Julie Jacobs returns to the house. She is upset that she didn't utilize the time she had left to say goodbye to her aunt, and becomes further upset when she discovers she was written out of her aunt's will (or was she? An interesting discovery springs up later).

The servant who was like a father to her growing up gives her a letter her aunt left to her, which essentially says her aunt has been lying to her all of these years by changing her name to Julie Jacobs. Her real name is Guilietta Tolomei. Her aunt's letter also claims that her mother was searching for a treasure in Siena, Italy, and that this treasure was meant for Guilietta, and not her sister, which is why the house was left to the sister. The sibling rivalry in the beginning is thick enough to eat with a spoon.

Julie is surprised, as partisan gifts are rather out of character for her aunt, but hops on a plane to Siena with the passport her aunt left her. She is deeply in debt, having always relied on the idea that her aunt was going to give her money, and is grieved to discover that now she will have to find her own way to climb up the mountain of debt she has accrued.

It gets worse when she discovers that this "treasure" her mother searched for was really more of a genealogical thing. Her mother found documents that indicate that she is related to Guilietta Tolomei, the girl whose love with a boy named Romeo Marescotti inspired several dramas about their doomed love, one of which was done by Shakespeare. Her mother was also consumed by the idea that the way the young lovers and those who helped them were treated had left a curse on their family lines, and was desperately trying to find a way to resolve it.

Honestly, with the exception of some frank selfishness that's a little disconcerting, but probably more honest than plain grief, I like most of that. It's suspenseful, it's interesting historical fiction.

Then, the romance had to get involved.

First, the fact that Guiletta/Julie is STILL a virgin, despite being - gasp - in her twenties, is made an enormously big deal. Give. Me. A. Break. Someone who's waiting for the right person shouldn't allow herself to feel like shit because her sister makes fun of her. I mean, maybe it's realistic to be a little embarrassed. At the same time, she obviously consciously makes the decision to wait - so what is there to be embarrassed about? If she wants to have sex, she could have and still can. If she doesn't, cool; she won't get knocked up.

Second - when she realizes that there is a present day Romeo Marescotti in her presence, the love story line becomes unbearable. I guess Fortier wanted it that way - a mirror to Shakespeare's. A redemption of a historical romance gone awry. But I have the same problem with the book that I have with Shakespeare's couple - these people fall in love too hard, too fast. Usually, when that happens in real life, you realize: "Shit. I don't know this person. The sex (hopefully) is great, but I'm not really in love."

Basically, I feel like the modern day Romeo & Guilietta in Fortier's book are too adult to be acting like their love struck, historical teenaged counterparts.

Other than the love story line, I thought this book was tolerable. Pretty well written, and pretty interesting. The love story line really only gets annoying in the last half or third of the book. Prior to that, it's pretty well done, too.

If you want a quick read, and/or you're interested in a taste of the historical background and influences on Shakespeare's play, and/or you like romance novels, I say give this one a try. In general, it's interesting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wait - When Did April Get Here?

For some reason, it seemed like I had plenty of time to do my outline - until last night. So here I sit, outline-less, with only a vague idea, and a little bit panicked.

We shall see how this ScriptFrenzy goes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In the Wee Hours of the Morning, by which I mean 11, b/c I Like Sleeping In -

I finished Christopher Moore's Bite Me: A Love Story.

I'm a lovely vibrant violet, and have one of the best titles ever.

It's a book that you should read. Granted, I am assuming that you have a sense of humor, enjoy laughing, and are human - but given that I was correct, (as I've already assumed I am), you should read Bite Me.

As I've already stated, it's funny. It's also a wild ride. The plot is entertaining, while keeping the reader in suspense. Yet, one of the best things about it, in my opinion, is its' accessibility.

Bite Me: A Love Story is the third book in a series by the talented Mr. Moore. The first book in the series is entitled Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (and holds a special place in my heart, as it was my introduction to Mr. Moore's writing). The second book is called You Suck: A Love Story. Yet, I feel that while the story is richer and probably more meaningful if you've read the first two books in the series, it is still not necessary to read the first two books first. Bite Me: A Love Story begins with a recap, but a recap told in such a fun, hilarious narrative voice that anyone who doesn't delight in reading it doesn't have a heart (which probably means you are not a human being, and therefore, don't fall under the assumptions with which I began this blog). With the recap, any reader receives enough of the overall story that this book is enjoyable and worth reading.

As all of the titles suggest, these books are vampire stories. Along with the horror elements that are generally necessitated by such subject matter, there are also romantic and sensual elements to all of the stories.

The thing that really makes this book a "must-read," though, is the characterization. Christopher Moore does a great job at creating characters. The reader grows to love and care about them. The characters are realistic - flawed, and as ridiculous as humans often are. The recap that begins the book, for example, is mainly humorous in light of the voice that narrates it. The "voice" is that of a thin goth girl who calls herself "Abby Normal," who yearns to be a vampire, has numerous piercings and tattoos, as well as a liking for gummi bears, though she eats the heads first, and the narration is occurring on her blog. Abby is only one of many characters you need to meet.

Ultimately, the only reason to refrain from reading this novel is for fear of getting too much public attention from guffawing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Expanding My Horizons: Aka, Reading Fiction about Charlotte Bronte

The latest ARC I received is entitled Romancing Miss Bronte, and is written by Juliet Gael. Here's a link to the Barnes & Noble page about this book, and here's the cover:

Romancing Miss Bronte is an historical fiction concerning Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette.

Frankly, I wasn't expecting to like this book, as I'm picky regarding historical fiction and romance novels.

But I did like it. Immensely.

Overall, the story was entertaining, and felt pretty authentic. It's obvious that the author did her homework. Charlotte Bronte went through some tough times - and if you know nothing about Miss Bronte's history, this book is an interesting introduction to them.

Charlotte's other siblings come to life, as well. Emily Bronte, who wrote Wuthering Heights, Anne Bronte, who wrote Agnes Grey, and their brother Branwell, who wasn't particularly famous for his literary works.

My interest was kept throughout the entire novel. At the end of the novel, I felt like I knew more about the Brontes, and I really cared about what happened to the characters.

The title is a bit misleading, however. The title makes this book sound like a romance - and while there is romance in it, that lovey-dovey stuff doesn't come into the picture until the narrative has already progressed fairly far. There is yearning, loss, and many other strong feelings, but love that is felt by both parties takes awhile to evolve. Personally, I like this. If a reader is expecting a predictable romance, however, this book is not one of them.

In summation, Romancing Miss Bronte is a very enjoyable read. Its' sentiments often resemble the Romantic era more than the Victorian, and love is dealt with in various ways, not just the predictable ways in which romance novels often do. Based on my prior knowledge of Charlotte Bronte's life, the book seems to be mostly historically accurate. I read through this book quickly, and I recommend it to anyone who is fond of fiction, who is, in particular, a fan of the Brontes, and/or a fan of romantic or literary fiction.

Romancing Miss Bronte is released April 27, 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm Tired - Rambling Will Ensue

So Frenziers*, with April approaching, preparation is a good idea.

As I stated in my previous post, I haven't written a play in quite some time - junior year of high school, to be exact. Due to this prolonged length of time, I went to Barnes & Noble** once I decided to participate in ScriptFrenzy for a resource book.

I'm currently reading The Playwright's Guidebook: An insightful primer on the art of dramatic writing by Stuart Spencer. I am finding it very helpful and interesting.

I also went to a used bookstore, where I purchased Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac"***. I have actually never read either of these plays, but am greatly looking forward to it.

What preparations, if any, are YOU doing?

*"Frenziers" is my newly invented term (as of a few minutes ago) for people doing ScriptFrenzy.

**I went to a physical store, not the website.

***I also purchased a copy of Agatha Christie's autobiography, which I had previously somehow not known existed until I laid my eyes on it. Being an avid Christie fan, I was exceedingly excited.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A New Challenge

I began this blog because I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

Now, a new challenge has presented itself: ScriptFrenzy. Writing a 100 page script in the month of April.

YOU should sign up, too. There are some helpful tips on the page, and we've got a week and a half for plotting purposes.

I, personally, have not written a play in a long time. I think it's going to be fun. Especially since I'm fond of dialogue.

If you're participating, let me know in the comments! Also, relate your username, so we can be ScriptFrenzy writing buddies.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: White Cat

I didn't win her "con"-test, but I managed to snag my hands on a copy of Holly Black's White Cat, anyway. Here's the cover, and a link to the Barnes & Noble webpage whereby you can pre-order a copy (and you should).

White Cat is the first book in a series called "The Curse Workers." In this series, Black is creating an alternate world, in which some people have special abilities that are exciting and terrifying to those who do not have such abilities. Thus, they are referred to as "Curse Workers."

Black has such a way with words. If you haven't read one of her books, then you may not realize this, and I suggest remedying the situation immediately. She has also written a trilogy of interrelated YA books: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. (Amazing.) She wrote The Spiderwick Chronicles, working with her friend and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi - a fantastic series meant to be a good read, while still being more reader friendly, so that people aren't overwhelmed.

Black tends to write fantasy works, but she is able to make them believable. You read Tithe, and suddenly, the fairy world doesn't seem that far away. I read White Cat, and personally thought "Wouldn't it be cool if everyone wore gloves?" (See, you have no idea what I'm talking about - but you CAN know, if you purchase the book.)

The action moves smoothly, the characters aren't all perfect, aren't all stereotypes, and cause the reader to feel for them.

I cannot rave enough about this book. I highly suggest reading it, and I know I'm looking forward to the sequel Red Glove.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Mystery Book I Didn't Much Like

So...that ARC I bragged about on Twitter? Took me forever to read. It's not even an "Advanced" copy anymore, since it's been available for purchase since February 23. Here's the cover, and a link to purchase the book from Barnes & Noble:

Why did this book take me a long time to read? It didn't hold my interest.

It's historical fiction, using as its' protagonist detective the actual "renegade monk and excommunicate Giordano Bruno." It takes place at Oxford University. Giordano Bruno goes there with his pal, poet Sir Philip Sidney (whose poetry I rather adore, really...if you haven't heard of Sidney, you should read some of his work), to engage in argument with the Rector (the dude in charge) about whether or not the universe is heliocentric. On this trip, the university "fellows" (basically, guys who have been around for awhile and have some power) begin dying. Bruno, apparently some great philanthropist, looks into the murders, and discovers Oxfordian secrets.

Heresy fell into a problem that I have with a lot of historical fiction - in trying to sound "authentic" and "old" it came across as "fake" and "boring." The dialogue, and the tone of narration throughout the book was very off-putting. I realize that it's hard to write historical fiction that sounds authentic - but if you're going to try to make it sound authentic, then you need to read a lot of primary sources from that time period, and have someone you trust, also familiar with primary sources, read it over, in order to appease fickle readers such as myself.

But really? This is FICTION. If I wanted to read "authentic" sixteenth century writing, I would literally read authentic sixteenth century writing. I personally felt that a more modern tone of voice would have made this book much more enjoyable.

Worse than the off-putting tone, however, was the characterization. I did not care about these characters. Any of them. I didn't care about the protagonist Giordano Bruno.

Do you ever watch horror movies, and want to yell at the person who is entering someone else's house? It's like: "Yeah, I know you're curious, but that's RUDE. Don't go in there unless you're invited, asshole!"

That's how I felt reading this book. I was like: "Why are you investigating these murders?" I really got the impression that Mr. Bruno was a nosy jerk who thought he had the right to know everything about everything because he wanted to. Um, no.

I did not care about the person who ended up being a murderer.

I did not care about the people who were murdered. I mean, murder is wrong, but I just didn't feel like I knew these people.

I certainly did NOT care about Bruno's love interest. She struck me as an annoying slut. I couldn't comprehend why he cared about her so much. Oh, wait. Yes I could. B/c she has tits. Congratulations, Bruno. Your taste in women rivals that of Hugh Hefner.

Perhaps worse than the poor characterization and off-putting tone of narration, however, was the plot. Mostly b/c there wasn't one.

Okay, okay, that's too harsh. There was a plot. It was just strung out so much that in the lengthy course of time it took me to read the book, I wasn't really following it that well. It kind of felt all over the place.

The book has all of this talk about how persecution and torture about beliefs that aren't going to harm anybody is WRONG (thus the title: Heresy). Frankly, when the book was wrapped up, I didn't much care. I was just glad not to be tortured any longer.

I'm sorry, S.J. Parris. I feel like you had some interesting ideas, and really good intentions. I just don't feel like they were carried out very well.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sometimes People Really Piss Me Off

Today's rant comes courtesy of: I am a feminist who not only refuses to apologize for her status, but furthermore, refuses to feel bad about it because people are too stupid to find out the actual definition of a word before denigrating it.

What is a feminist? Is she necessarily someone who hates all men? No. Is she a lesbian? Possibly. (I'm not.) Does she burn her bras? According to this article, women never actually did that. But it's possible.

In my opinion, a feminist is someone who thinks that men and women are equals. On an individual level, sure, men and women are different. Then again, on an individual level, two women are different. That's the thing about people. We've all got our strengths and weaknesses. Overall, however, I think I deserve the same amount of respect as a man.

I am appalled when someone begins talking badly about "feminists" in these broad terms, and obviously has no idea that there is a positive side to feminism. It happens all of the time. It happened the other night in a phone conversation I was having with a white male I happen to know.

Now, during the course of this conversation, this male said he was "sick of being blamed for everything because he's white and a guy." He said that, sure, his ancestors HAD had power for the majority of history and they'd done some pretty shitty things with that power, but then went on, "but that's not me! I, PERSONALLY, didn't do those horrible things. So why am I being blamed?"

Here's the thing. History matters.

I'm not just saying this because I was basically a history major in college. I'm saying it because it's true.

There's that oft-quoted saying: "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Yet I think history's importance encompasses more than learning from the mistakes of others. Our history is an essential component of ourselves.

Even if you don't care about history, it affects you. Your ancestors passed down their conception of life along with genes. You not only get your physical appearance from these people whom you've never met, your views are affected by the views of your parents, which were in turn affected by the views of their parents, which were in turn affected by the views of their parents, and so on and so forth.

So if your ancestors were slave owners, just because you know they were wrong doesn't mean we should all just forget about it.

Families share everything. Everything includes history.

If you're white and male you've got a shitload of history backing you up to give you all of these privileges. Because white males have been primarily in power for a long time. Along with these privileges comes the guilt. Because white males have been in power by treating females and minorities like shit for a long time.

Deal with it.

Do not act like I'm odd or crazy or stupid because I'm a feminist. As a feminist, as someone who thinks males and females are equals, and should be treated as such, I am someone who is going against the grain of tradition that humans have worn away over time.

I wish everyone was a feminist. Sadly, they are not. If you're reading this, and you didn't previously consider yourself a feminist, I hope you reconsider.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Differing Perspectives

"The Box," the movie with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, came out on DVD Tuesday. One of the perks to working at a video store is that you get to watch the movies a little early, so that you can tell inquiring minds/customers your opinion of the new releases.

So there's this female I work with - for the sake of anonymity, we'll call her Napkin. So Napkin watched "The Box" before many of the other employees, and had a little rant about the movie. "They didn't explain anything!" Napkin cried.

I found this surprising, because, if you've seen the trailer, it's quite clear that "The Box" is one of those thrillers with an intricate plot that is supposed to have at least most of the plot lines tied up before the movie ends. "They didn't explain anything?" I asked.
"They didn't explain anything!" Napkin repeated. "At the end of the movie, it's completely unclear what's going on!"

Not that I don't trust Napkin or anything, but I decided to watch the movie anyway.

I was then perplexed.

You see, dear reader, whom I choose to address in the second person though you're probably nonexistent, I thought that pretty much everything was explained, and that furthermore, much was insinuated. I felt a sense of completion at the end of the movie.

This differing of perspectives got me thinking about explanation in writing.

In the movie which I've been using as an example, I feel that the screenwriter showed us the dots, connected most of the lines, and left the filling in of the picture to the reader's intelligence. Not to say that Napkin isn't intelligent, for she is.

It seems to me, however, that Napkin wants everything explained to her. In detail. Whereas I find too much detail excruciating and boring.

As someone who writes (though not as much as she should be, lately), I'm not going to lie - I mostly write for myself. Don't get me wrong, I want other people to like my writing, too. I want to write something I know I am proud of first, though. Then I get too lazy to revise, so, you know, stuff stays the way I wrote it, and people probably think I'm crazy.

Yet I digress. As a writer, I don't want to confuse my readers. But I also don't want to spell everything out for them, and treat them like idiots.

So how much explanation is TOO MUCH explanation? And how do we know when we're giving too little explanation? I realize the obvious answer is to have someone else read your work. It seems to me, however, that opinions on this question can be too varying. For example, my dear, respected co-worker Napkin and I both like each other, but we're on opposite ends of the spectrum.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Benjamin Pratt Book Review

I received an ARC of We the Children, the first book in the Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School book series. These books are written by Andrew Clements, and illustrated by Adam Stower.

Aimed at the age group from 7-10 years old, this book is a quick read. The plot is sort of ridiculous, but fun, and character development is started, but doesn't feel fully fleshed out. Yet. It is clear that the series will need to be read as a whole for completion of the story. This book begins the tale, but feels mostly like exposition. It's setting the scene, giving the necessary background information for the story arc to follow.

To be fair, I don't tend to read books intended for this age group, anymore. At the same time, I wouldn't recommend reading this book yet, because I feel that a book should be more well-rounded on its' own. I might be willing to recommend the book series as a whole, but it's not finished, so I can't really say yet.

I would say this first book is interesting, and I'm curious as to what will happen next. It's a Simon & Schuster book that comes out in April of this year. If you think this book might be for you or someone you know, click the picture above for more information.