Friday, April 29, 2011

Excerpts from an Interview You Should Read

I just read this article on the Writer's Digest website. It's an interview with Harlan Coben, and I found it very inspiring. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"I want it to be compulsive reading. So on every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word, I ask myself, 'Is this compelling? Is this gripping? Is this moving the story forward?' And if it's not, I have to find a way to change it... No word should be wasted."

"That's what a good crime novelist - any good novelist - should do with you; play with your perceptions while showing you everything in plain sight."

"...the actual process [of writing], the day-to-day suffering, the day-to-day self-doubt, the day-to-day self-hatred, that's pretty much always the same."

"None of my books are ever just about thrills, or it won't work."

"You can't get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don't want to ever get complacent."

"You have a choice: You can either hate yourself, or you can write."

On Borrowing Things

Rebecca Makkai's novel The Borrower comes out in June of this year, and my opinion of this book can be summed up in two words: Buy it.

The tale of a highly intelligent librarian in her mid-twenties, who, though not exactly possessing the degrees requisite to do her job does it far more competently than anyone else there, "borrows" a ten-year-old boy. Technically, narrator Lucy Hull commits kidnapping that crosses several state lines for reasons that are somewhat idealistic.

I love, love, loved the narrator. She was witty, and based on the reactions of several other characters to her, very pretty, but completely misguided. As the reader, I felt as though Lucy could have or do whatever she wanted - but she didn't know what she wanted. & she didn't particularly care that she didn't know what she wanted, or that she wasn't entirely sure of what she was doing. As someone in her mid-twenties whose life goals seem to change somewhat everyday, and who, at times, wishes she was pretty, slutty, & enough of an actress to act stupid enough to become an object of infatuation for Hugh Hefner, I have to say - I could identify with many aspects of Miss Hull's life.

I also loved the young boy whom she took on an unplanned road trip. (Kidnapping is a somewhat harsh term to describe the situation that occupies the majority of the narrative of this book.) An adorable boy named Ian who is a voracious reader and seems inclined towards a sexuality different from heterosexuality, he is the child of two very strict parents who take him to weekly anti-gay classes with a man who claims to have formerly been homosexual and now saved.

It is interesting to see the narrative from the side of the villain - which is how Miss Hull describes herself in the beginning of the narrative. I particularly like that this is one villain you don't want to get caught. I didn't necessarily agree with everything she believed - I just didn't want her to get caught. At the end of the narrative, I wasn't sure that I even agreed with Miss Hull's assessment of herself as a villain.

All-in-all, an extremely entertaining & intelligent read that explores many aspects of the concept of "borrowing." Seriously, buy it. Here's a link so you can pre-order it now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fairy Tales - Literally

I recently finished the novel Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon.

I really enjoyed it. This was another book that skipped around in time - every chapter took place in a different decade. The book chapters also each featured a different protagonist - the more modern ones featured a woman in her thirties named Phoebe, the chapters from 15 years prior feature a young girl named Lisa.

At the crux of the story lies the mystery of what, exactly, happened to a 12-year-old girl named Lisa, who disappeared one summer. The most logical train of thought - 12-year-old girl disappears and has been missing for 15 years - isn't pretty. The flashbacks and the interesting people Phoebe and her boyfriend (who happens to be Lisa's younger brother) Sam encounter when the possibility that Lisa's returned, however, makes the reader question this concept of reality.

Lisa was an interesting little girl - very pretty, very imaginative, and one of those people that other people tend to like. & Lisa believed in fairies.

In fact, the summer that she disappeared, Lisa thought she was contacting fairies, and was going to be brought into the fairyland to become Teilo (the fairy king) 's queen.

So 15 years later, Sam and his cousin Evie begin receiving strange messages and encountering odd situations that seem like the sorts of things that fairies who are complete assholes might be perpetrating, & have to wonder - was Lisa right? Was she in the fairy kingdom for 15 years? & is she now back?

I really, really enjoyed this book. For some reason, the length of the book surprised me (464 pages). The novel still read very quickly, however, while not being insipid or stupid. This isn't really a beach read, but I do recommend reading it.

There was one thing that sometimes irked me about the book - the protagonist changes. Every chapter had that different focus - one for Phoebe, one for Lisa - and sometimes, it was a little jarring. I think, however, that it did actually work in the way that the author intended. When you're discussing subjects such as child kidnapping, possible rape, murder, and not-very-nice fairies, jarring the reader a little bit is a good thing.

So it's a serious book, and it questions the concepts of reality and perception. Really, at the end of the book, I was slightly spooked, though while reading the majority of the book I wouldn't say it was a horror story.

If you're interested in reading some more about the book, other reviews, or pre-ordering, the author's website is here. The book is being released in May of this year.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Popping My Cherry

I had never read a novel by Kristin Hannah before, (that's right, get your minds out of the gutter,) and was lucky enough to receive an advanced reading copy of her new book night road recently.

I think I've found a new great author. A lot of you have probably read her work before (you guys - so smart), but if you haven't, I strongly suggest checking this book out:

I hesitate to summarize this book, because honestly, I feel like a summary would make me less inclined to want to purchase the novel. I'll do my best, but I want to preface the summary with a warning that my words are not very likely to do the novel justice:

The book skips around in time a bit, covering a span of about 8 (9? 10? I'm bad at math) years. It mostly chronicles three teenagers who are friends, lovers, helpers, fighters, etc. Some great things happen; some horrible things happen. Overall, however, (& this is going to sound so corny, but doesn't come across that way in the book at all) this book really reinforces the idea that love is a healing, wonderful thing.

It deals with issues of love, parenthood, abandonment, depression, and martyrdom.

Basically, you really need to read it. Go buy it. Now.

Has anyone else read Kristin Hannah? What are your thoughts (on any of her works)? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A YA Book I Didn't Much Like

I recently received an ARC of brother/sister by Sean Olin.

I didn't much like it.

In fact, I didn't finish it. In general, I try to make a point of finishing a book sent to me for review. At times, however, as a reader, I just know when a book isn't for me. This was one of them. After diligently plowing through more than 50 pages, I decided to follow a Pearl of wisdom & quit.

The novel is narrated by two siblings, a brother & a sister (just like in the title! It must be a coincidence, right?), named Will & Asheley (yes, that's really how her name is spelled). When the book opens, we as readers know that something terrible has happened. As the story keeps unfolding, we realize that someone is dead and that the siblings are in Mexico. They are talking to the police, and it seems that one or both of them is the suspect with regards to the death. The kids are isolated and kind of weird - the result of divorced parents and an alcoholic mother - and a day when both of them accomplish sports feats, they are also shamed by actions by their mother and boyfriend.

Each chapter is narrated by a different sibling, and the story itself isn't that bad. I didn't, however, like the writing style. I didn't like the characters of Will and Asheley, and I didn't like the way that the story was taking for. ev. er. to unfold. It was like it took five chapters to relate an hour time span. Like much of America, I have ADD - I don't have the attention span for this.

So the stuff happening was interesting, but honestly, I don't even care that I don't know exactly who was murdered, or how, by whom, etc. So the interesting stuff was not related in an interesting way, and that makes this a book that I wouldn't recommend.