Hello! It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review. I have a few to do, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to start with THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness. **Spoiler free.**


This book captured my granite heart for a few reasons:

  1. Structure: There are two stories going on here. One story is told in the actual book and the other is told IN THE CHAPTER TITLES. At first I was confused until I got to chapter two which was the same moment that I realized that Patrick Ness was a genius.
  2. Characters: The story revolves around four friends and is told from the perspective of Mikey. He’s the younger brother of Mel (another of the friends). His best friend Jared and his crush Henna are also in the group. Each of them has his or her own worries outside of saving the world, and the friends can deal with them because they are not the Chosen Ones. Mickey battles OCD, Mel struggles with an eating disorder, Henna grieves the loss of her brother, and Jared works through identity issues. We get to watch the inner trauma of Mickey’s situation, including a therapist meeting that had me wanting to cry on someone’s shoulder. The other characters reactions to their circumstances are subtly yet clearly shown to us as the story progresses. You grow to love each character and see how this group of friends, with all the vices and what some would call “faults”, work together and love each other as friends turned family members. (Especially since some of the families they were born into suuuuuck.)
  3. Prose: The story is just told well. The prose is engaging with just the right amount of “pretty”, and you feel Mickey’s struggle and relief within the arrangement of words. Wonderful.
  4. Ending: I really liked how the chapter titles story and the actual story pulled together in the end. It had a hopeful feel to it and hinted that the characters were all going to continue to grow and turn into even cooler adults. And dang it if I don’t like a happy ending. (I do. Happy Endings are my Thang.)
  5. Movie?: Yes! I think this would make a really neat anti-Chosen One movie. There are neat visuals that could be done, and it’s a fresh take I personally have never seen on film. Ya here me, Hollywood?! Make it so!

Until next time!


Things I Loved about Blood Magic

1)The magic itself—Tessa Gratton’s magic was dirty, chaotic.  It demanded sacrifice and pain.  There was nothing “pretty” about it.  If the character(s) wanted to have something out-of-this-natural-world done, it wasn’t going to be accomplished with a magic wand and sparkles.  It was done with blood and herbs and, occasionally, death.  This created a stark line between the magical world and the mundane world.  Its darkness made the reader see that magic in this world as abnormal and scary and all-consuming if the characters let it be.   Super metaphorical.  I reveled in it.

2)Characterization—I loved the tragic backstories of these characters.  I loved the macho/nerdiness of Reese.  (I might be biased because I married someone macho/nerdy.)  I loved Silla’s strength and willingness to do whatever it took, no matter how it would affect her personally.  I loved Nick’s perseverance and care.  I loved the way Gratton handled Lilith.  The characters were people who the reader might have met already—with a Magical Crazy going after them.

3)The Story—The actual read was pleasant.  The story had a unique plot.  It never dragged or felt tiresome.  The conflict was dire, and the resolution was fitting and creative.  I enjoyed it.  I didn’t devour it, but I like that I wanted to take my time to understand and wade in the pretty language the author used. When I did put it down, though, it crept into my thoughts, and that constitutes a good book to me.

4)The Journal—The use of the journal entries as part of the story drew me in completely.  Should I have moral issues for saying I really enjoyed a villainous character?  Well, I did.  Enjoy the character, that is.  I’ll worry about what that says about me later.

Surprised. Inspired.

Long ago, I purchased a book on Kindle that was on sale for 99 cents.  I have to admit, I was skeptical.  Very, skeptical.  I mean, how can you suspend reality to the point where you can imagine a world without love? But since I am such a sucker for a sale, I bought it anyway.  And then it sat there on my Kindle for months.  My writing has been at a standstill lately as I have had some medical issues with Baby, so all I can do really is think.  Moving is too strenuous.  I finished Mockingjay, which was my favorite of the three Hunger Games Trilogy books, and I really was digging the dystopian genre.  monetarily poor and in need of something to read, I pulled out my Kindle and pressed GO on DeliriumWhen I was through with it, I pressed GO on the sample for Pandemonium, and when I was through with that, I went in search for the third book, which I found out is not coming out until March 2013.  I pouted to Husband.  I’m glad I didn’t know before hand, though.  I probably wouldn’t have read it until the third book was accessible, because that’s how I roll, and I would have missed out on these two books at a time when I really needed a pick-me-up.  Here are a few reasons why I like these books and the literary prowess of Lauren Oliver:

1)  The writing is gorgeous.  There were times when I would get to an analogy about something as simple as entering a room and would be blown away be the originality and exactness of the description.  I literally would just put down the Kindle and wallow in the analogy for a while before continuing on.

2)  Though the idea of a loveless world was far-fetched to me, I realized as I read that it was not necessarily the removal of love, but of strong emotions, such as passion, that’s removed.  (Though, I will say that some of the characters exhibit rage and large amounts of joy in persecuting others which, to me, are strong emotions, so maybe I have some more thinking to do on this analysis.)  In spite of this, the world engaged me.  Suspending my belief was not as big of an issue as I originally thought because…

3)  The characters were so believable.  Each action and reaction were character driven rather than plot driven.  You BELIEVED the change in the main character.  The situations may be super different from ones we as readers can relate to, but the reactions were true to human kind and, more specifically, to the personalities of the characters.  So much so, when you get to the end, though you are crying your eyes out (You are not human if you don’t cry at the end of the first book.  Or, maybe, you are not pregnant. Hmm.), you think, “Of course, he did that.  I know why I’m sad, but why am I surprised?”

4)  The relationship is believable.  Lena and Alex’s relationship (Delirium) and Lena and Julian’s relationship (Pandemonium) are born out of circumstance and time, rather than the unexplainable “lust at first sight within a millisecond of spying relationship counterpart” scenario. Pet peeve.  This works rarely, in my opinion.  I get initial attraction, believe me.  I noticed Husband’s sexy, mountain-man appearance before I loved his rapier wit, perseverance, and steadfastness.  It’s when an author doesn’t show that the character is worthy of the other’s unconditional love and dedication after the “Wow, he’s cute!” moment that I feel I’ve wasted my time.  Thanks for the time well spent, Ms. Oliver.

5)  In Delirium, the reader makes lots of black and white decisions.  Removing the disease is right or wrong.  The Invalids are good or bad.  The government is righteous or corrupt.  I love that Oliver solidifies these things in book 1, and then in book 2, tears these “facts” apart, revealing where black and white mix together to producing.  And isn’t that life?  Once we say, “Taco Bell has the best Mexican pizza!”,  we end up on the toilet with food poisoning, wondering if eating it was the right thing to do.  Life has a way of making you constantly guess if you have made the right choice, formed the right opinion.  It makes you continuously reevaluate yourself.  It makes you become better and better, even though it hurts.  I bet that if a diamond could talk, it would tell us how painful it was for someone to scrape away the rough, but it sure does like being so shiny.

I look forward to seeing how Oliver will resolve the issue at the end of book 2 and how Lena’s character is developed by the end of the trilogy.

Praise and Improve

Hello! I’m super tired today from reading the new Cassandra Clare book all. Night. Long. (Sixteen word book review: lovely world, great plot, identifiable characters, hopeless with a smidge of hopeful, wretchedly equal love triangle) I hope I make sense today.  Actually, that’s a hope renewed daily.

I adjunct teach English classes occasionally at a local college. For my students, one of the most dreaded parts of the class is decompression questions given after a large assignment.  They groan and put their heads in imaginary nooses and kick the stool beneath them.  But eventually, they finish the task.  The questions aren’t difficult.  For example:

  1. What was the most difficult part/aspect of this project?
  2. What are you proudest of in this essay?  Why?
  3. If you were to write this paper again, what would you do differently?
  4. Is there anything else you’d like to say about this paper?

But the more classes I teach, the more I realize that students in my small, southern town hate, I mean HATE, to check themselves.  They would rather be buried in wet cement than say, “I am proud that I was able to use the word ‘superfluous’ correctly in the third paragraph of my paper.”  That is bragging on oneself, and that is the job of other people standing next to you in a conversation.  It’s as if there is some sort of psychological dilemma when someone looks within and finds something he/she likes, let alone something he/she doesn’t like.

I get it.  I fight this curse daily.  I grew up in a Southern/Japanese hodgepodge culture.  Mix those two together and, basically, I (as an individual) don’t exist.

BUT… Then there are the students that used the assignment for its purpose:  to grow from the writing experience. Those students look at their work as if it were a stranger’s and discover legitimate strengths and weaknesses–things to praise and improve.

Honest self-evaluation can be used for more aspects of life other than writing, but for our purposes…writing it is.

Teaching self-evaluation skills is soooo much easier than practicing them.  It’s really hard to congratulate yourself because of something that came out of your head. It’s something you can take pride in as sole proprietor.  Likewise, the mistakes are yours alone.  We are humans.  We make mistakes.  Sorry if I pooped on someone’s dinner plate with that bit of information, but truth is truth.  Also, we are not perfect.  (There goes dessert.)  So, can’t we deduce that there is always room for improvement?  We, as self-evaluators, label the need and then…well, we work on that area in current and/or future projects.  Bettering our writing. Bettering ourselves.

Point:  Self-evaluations are a vehicle for being honest with yourself, a vehicle which I have found useful in my writing (and my life).  I’m learning that an objective, unbiased eye—from sentence structures to mood and beyond—produces better results for me.

Hint:  It’s more effective if I do not blow smoke up my ass (My first draft is perfect. Revisions are for amateurs.) and if I do not rip myself a new one. (I can’t send this out.  It’s 90,000 words of horse poo. The respectable authors in my genre should start an annual tar and feathering ceremony to punish other authors who try to camouflage horse poo as literature, and I should be the first on their list.)

Your peer revision partner(s), writer’s group member(s), and/or your mom will, hopefully, help you if you lean too far to one side or another on a given day.

Just something I was thinking about…