Company, College, and “Cursed Child”

Hello my beautiful people!  My fellow writers!

I just wanted to write you guys a quick letter letting you know that I probably won’t be blogging a ton in the next few weeks.  I have out of town guests arriving soon, and life’s always hectic when we have company.

Then shortly after that, I leave for school!  I’M GOING TO UNIVERSITY!

Or as we lame Americans call it, “college.”  (University sounds way cooler, right?)

So with all this transition and stuff happening, I don’t foresee having a lot of time for writing or for creating blog posts.  I’ll miss you all in my time off, but hopefully I’ll be back some time in mid or late August.  Enjoy the last bits of summer, go easy on yourself, sleep in, enjoy cold coffee, and read a book you’ve been meaning to for a while.

And, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child

It’s brilliant and wonderful and delightful.

So many feelings…

This story made me laugh and almost cry and laugh some more. It brought back old characters that I loved seeing again, and introduced new characters that were just as endearing.  I loved being back in the wonderful wizarding world.

It felt a little different from the 7-book series, but that was to be expected. So I wouldn’t consider this to be “Book 8,” but rather an extra addition of some other sort. The story-telling is very different from the rest of the books.

But it was really good. The play-format didn’t bother me at all; I got used to it after a couple scenes. The dialogue was witty and fun.  And sometimes the stage directions made me feel like I was actually watching the play unfold on a stage before my eyes.

Overall it was amazing and beautiful. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!

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The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Night Circus

This is a book that chills and excites and enchants.  It is one I will read over and over so that I can go back to the magical, tent-covered land of the Circus, because what Erin Morgenstern has created is more than a masterpiece.  It’s magic.

This book review isn’t going to be a standard format, because this book isn’t standard.  It’s extraordinary in every sense of the word.

The writing is breathtaking, the characters are creative, the story is beautiful, the suspense is delicious.

Reading it was a sheer joy.  There were times I had to stop and make myself a cup of tea before continuing because I just couldn’t take all the glory of it.

So go.

Read it.

Now.

But be warned of two things:

First, I got “stuck” about a fifth of the way through reading it.  Don’t give up if you get “stuck.”  It was a tiny bit confusing with all the different plot lines, but DON’T GIVE UP because they all come together.  I promise.  And when they do, it’s magnificent.

Second, don’t read the second paragraph of the synopsis on the back of the book (or anywhere else you see the synopsis – Amazon, Goodreads, etc).  DON’T READ IT.  It contains a moderate spoiler that I believe detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book – especially the climax.

This book is sheer delight.  I’m going to stop talking now so you can go and buy yourself a copy.  It is tingling to the mind as magic might be to the fingers.

Five out of five stars any day for superb story telling.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Synopsis: Clay used to work as a website designer, but then the Great Recession hits and he’s stuck looking for a new job.  When he sees a hand-written “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a bookstore, he cares more about getting the job than about the oddness of the store.  But after working the night shift for just a few weeks, he realizes just how weird the store really is.

It’s not just that the store is taller than it is wide, although that is strange.

It’s not that it’s open 24-Hours a day, although that’s unusual too.

It’s not even that the owner is an eccentric, bright-eyed old man.

It’s more like the fact that the entire back of the bookstore is shelved with old-smelling tomes that are written in code.  And that bizarre people come in at all hours of the night, desperate to exchange one coded book for another.

Clay really wants to hang onto his job.  But more than that, he wants to know what’s going on.  But the further he digs into the mystery, the weirder things get.  Clay steps from his world of buzzing fast internet, human androids, and insane technology, out into the dark world of ancient societies and black robes.  To uncover the mystery of the coded books and their strange borrowers, he’ll need the help of his girlfriend (who works at Google), his best friend (who is a millionaire), and maybe even Mr Penumbra himself.

My Thoughts: I was enchanted by this book.

Setting:  I loved the way that old, dusty books collided with new, lightning-fast technology.  It was a really neat setting (about 50 years in the future, I think), and I loved the way the MC described things.

Style: The writing style was really fun & interesting – I loved the voice.  And I especially loved how the MC was such a nerd – there were references to Harry Potter and other books/movies, and the MC was slightly obsessed with this Fantasy story.  It was awesome how the Sci-Fi world was mixed with the Fantasy-loving characters.

Characters: Awesome.  Diverse.  Funny.  Real.

Plot: Super cool.  Ever-changing, always going somewhere new.  I loved the idea of these special books that were written in code, hiding secrets even deeper than the MC could imagine.  It worked for me.

Content Advisory: There is some romance in the book, but it is NOT central to the plot.  That said, the MC mentions that he and his girlfriend “make out”, and there are a few scenes where they are in her bedroom (and one where it’s mentioned she’s naked).  However, there is NOTHING explicit at all.  Really, if you skip about two sentences, the book could be rated G.

Rating: 4.7 stars.

If you like books, computers, sci-fi, fantasy, nerdy things, things that make you laugh, or just REALLY GOOD BOOKS, then go get it from the library.

WARNING:  IF YOUR BOOK COVER LOOKS LIKE THIS, IT WILL GLOW IN THE DARK.

mr ppenumbra-glow-in-the-dark

Let it demand to be read

There’s a great line in The Fault in Our Stars – “Pain demands to be felt.”

What if our writing was like that?  What if the novels we wrote demanded to be read?  If readers were unable to sleep at night until they read the last page?

I’m in the middle of reading four books right now.  FOUR.

The first three did not demand to be read.

I was simply bored with the first.  Twenty pages in, it was still the setup for the main plot.  The plot that I KNEW was going to take place because I’d READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK!  So it was 100% un-suspenseful.  You know what I did with that book?

I returned it to the library.

(It was due.)

But wouldn’t that BREAK YOUR HEART as an author if you went through all the trouble of getting a book written, polished, PUBLISHED… and then have someone RETURN IT TO THE LIBRARY after 20 pages?

It would break my heart!

The second book, I’m reading for book club – so I (probably) won’t return it until I’ve read the entire thing.  But let me tell you: the first 5 pages are about a boy going to a swamp.  LEGIT, that is ALL THAT HAPPENS!  The dog chases a squirrel, the boy yells at the dog, and then gets hit by a passer-by for using language.  But he’s basically just CHILLING AT A SWAMP.  Oh, and there’s some cleverly disguised info-dumps about the world.

The third is okay.  I’ll finish it, definitely, but there’s nothing PULLING ME TOWARDS IT.

When I write, I don’t want it to be “okay.”  I want it to DEMAND TO BE READ.  At this point, I have a solid beginning – no boring setup or disguised info-dumps.  And no swamps.  But now I’m at a part where one major suspense point has been resolved, and the MC has no major obstacles in front of her.  No suspense.  No conflict.

It’s so bad that I don’t even want to write it, because there’s no mystery for ME.  No raging emotions, nothing EXCITING.  If I’m bored writing, that equals the reader ready to return the book to the library.

WHAT DO I DO???

Ashley and Kathleen, two of my favorite authors on the blog CrackinTheWIP, frequently talk about blowing things up when they’re out of ideas.  Or just want some more excitement. ie, “Hm, and have you tried making something explode yet? Perhaps a person, or a place, or some sort of fruit cart?”

Maybe I should try that.

Either way, something’s gotta change.  Some suspense must be added, some character must turn evil, some fruit cart must explode… something to make the chapter I’m on DEMAND TO BE READ.

WIP, here I come.

The Captain

Summer Reading

This week.  This will be the week that I really get back into writing!

But then… THIS happened.

IMAG1136.

I WENT TO THE LIBRARY.  And came home with:

1) Doctor Who Series 8.  Because every season of New Who deserves to be re-watched at least once.

2) Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson.  Because her other book, Since You’ve Been Gone, was so brilliant.

3) Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because Cinderella + Sci-Fi sounds too cool to resist, and I finally found a copy at my library.  I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, and it caught my eye today – just sitting on the shelf, looking all mysterious and wonderful.

4) Uncommon Criminals, by Ally Carter.  Because Ally Carter is awesome and I am almost finished with the previous book in the series.  (The notable thing about this book: it is the last book by Ally Carter that I have not read yet.  So after this… I have to wait for her to write another one.  NOOOooooo…. Sadness.)

Okay, I guess I’m not gonna get much writing done this week.  Especially ’cause that Doctor Who DVD is due in just 7 days.  OH WELL!  This is just turning out to be a reading summer instead of a writing one.

In fact, I’m surprised my brain hasn’t exploded with all the reading I’ve done this summer.

I’ve already read All Fall Down, Heist Society, and Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter.  (Reviews coming soon)

Plus, for my book club, I’ve read all these:

1) Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson.  A charming story about a girl who finds herself when her best friend disappears for a summer.  Full review HERE.

WE-WERE-LIARS2) We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart.

A story about a perfect family.

With all the money in the world.

And a private island with huge, expensive summer homes.

And a girl whose accident one summer breaks the pattern of her perfect family.

Quite an interesting read.  It’s left me a little scarred, however.

CNV3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

A story about a British spy in occupied France during WWII.  She’s been caught by the Germans, and she has two weeks to live.  Two weeks to tell the story of how she came to serve as a spy.  But the real story is about her friendship with the pilot Maddie and their adventures together.  But it turns out the adventures have just begun.

I admit that I had a rough time getting into this book at first. It was a bit slow, and didn’t seem to really be going anywhere. But as the pages went by, the pace increased and I found myself more and more engrossed in the lives of the two amazing characters. I nearly cried at the ending, but loved it nonetheless.

I also loved the characters and the tone of the book. “Verity” has a wonderful voice – she’s witty and funny and rebellious and grand. And Maddie – she’s just brilliant.

My poor WIP is feeling rather unloved.  I’m so sorry, dear WIP, but you’re just gonna have to wait another week.  Or maybe two.  Or as long as it takes for me to balance my reading and writing schedules.  I want to feel bad for you, but I’m too busy enjoying my books.  🙂

My Love / Hate Relationship With My Book Club

Most days, I love the fact that I’m a part of a summer book club.  It allows me to read books like Since You’ve Been Gone (review here) that are wonderfully charming, and which I would never have read on my own.

But some days, I want to kill the head of the book club.  (Not really – I love her to death.  HAHAHA, that’s funny.)  Why? Because the book we read this week took my heart out of my chest, dunked it into a bucket of acid, sliced it into thirty million pieces, and fed the remains to power-hungry vultures with sharp beaks.  Needless to say, it didn’t end well.  Or at least the way I wanted it to.  (I’m not mentioning the name of the book, because the fact that I didn’t like the ending is a huge spoiler for it.)

AND THE WORST PART?  I started out loving the book.  The voice was fresh, charming.  The setting added to the mood, as it is supposed to.  There was the perfect amount of suspense, the dialogue was done well.  “This is my favorite thing in the universe,” I said frequently as I tore through the pages.  The mystery was intriguing, pulling me onward faster and faster and faster, and then

the

truth

came out

and it hurt

in ways that I

was not ready for

.

It felt like I’d been cheated, because the entire book was a giant lie.  Half the characters had been dead for half the story without the MC knowing it.  She was hallucinating.  She was responsible for their death.  And that fact was so agonizing that her brain would delete it.

no matter how many times she was told

she couldn’t accept

that she’d killed them

until the end.

she remembered

we discovered

the truth.

and it hurt.

the end.

Epilogue: I love my book club.  I just didn’t like this book.  But I do love that we can discuss our emotions and anger and feelings, look for hidden clues in the mystery, and tell each other that the next book will be better.

Cause if it’s not, I quit.

Maximum Ride

maximun-ride

Author: the best-selling James Patterson

Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Max (full name: Maximum Ride) has a lot on her plate.  She’s responsible for protecting five of her closest friends from blood-thirsty scientists who want to experiment on them.  One of those friends happens to be a cute, quiet, boy.  Then she’s also trying to track down her long-lost parents.  Oh, and she’s supposed to save the world in her free time.  But at least she can fly.

She and the rest of the “flock” have to fight off half-wolf, half-human mutants, rescue the youngest member of their winged-group from captivity, and find a place to eat tonight.  Because flying sure does have a way of making you hungry.

So come along and join the adventure, but be ready, ’cause you’ve gotta soar to survive.

What I love about it:   1) The plot.  I mean, how awesome is a bunch of bird-kids soaring around America trying to stop an evil science team?    2) The characters.  From adorable Angle to blind-but-sarcastic Iggy, the whole Flock is amazing.  And Max herself is awesome.  She has determination, a pair of wings, a bit of self-doubt, and an amazing wit that’s used for extreme sarcasm.

Content Advisory: nothing bad —  a bit of action violence and a smidgen of romance that’s completely clean.

Rating: 4.5 stars, if only because the first book wasn’t nearly as good as the second two.

Describe it in one sentence: An action-packed, sky-soaring adventure that leaves you breathless and wanting to read more.

Bonus: shout out to my older brother for introducing me to this series!