Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--more of the post-apocalyptics

Up for today: GONE by Michael Grant

Product Details

Why I bought it? Searching for something new at the bookstore, the cover caught my attention. I read the blurb on the back and was intrigued. Sold.

Synopsis: I don't want to give too many spoilers because part of the fun of this book is the unraveling of the details. In the first few pages you know pretty much everything here. Everyone 15 years old and older disappear. They are just gone. Poof. The kids are left to deal with daily life on their own with the danger of bullies becoming dictators, mutating animals, starvation, neglect, and some kids (evil and good) developing powers. It's a world gone mad. It reminded me of Lord of the Flies except this one includes everyone 14 and under. Babies too.

What I thought? It started out extremely well and after a while got incredibly gross (which for me was okay), then it got bogged down in all the side stories the author included. The concept was great, the execution flawed--at times a page turner, at times a bore. I checked out ratings overall on BN and Amazon thinking I was being overly harsh, and maybe I am, but I found the prose clunky in lots of spots, and the plot meandering. Some people loved it (mostly younger readers as far as I could tell). I liked it enough that I have bought the second, but I'm not dying to read it. I'm just sort of interested. I'd like to see where the story goes, but in researching a bit for this review I found out there are going to be at least 4 books in this series. If the writing doesn't get better, I'm not sure I'll be able to stand it. I'll withhold that judgement until after I've read the second one: Hunger.

My Rating: *** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, no sex and little language, but the violence is high, very high.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watching the Monarch

I have just finished watching a series that I found on Netflix that has delighted me so much I thought I'd share. It's called Monarch of the Glen. It's by BBC Scotland. Anybody else seen it?
Set in the Scottish Highlands, it tells the story of the Laird of Glenbogle and his family and their attempts to save the Estate.
The story is fun and lively with plenty of poignant moments and lots of quirky characters. One of my favorites is Golly the Gilly.
Humor abounds. There were some shows where I was laughing so hard and then crying. It's a great journey. Plus, it's really tame for those who are especially looking for that. It was primetime tv in Scotland, so it was something the whole family could watch.

The biggest stars of the show are the castle and especially the Highlands.
They are absolutely gorgeous
and the cinematography
really shows them off.

Just a few glimpses for you.
Give it a try sometime.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--on fire again

Up for today: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Product Details

Why I bought it? It's the sequel to The Hunger Games, and I loved that book. I've been anxious to read it, since I read the first one. I pre-ordered it through Amazon, and it came at the beginning of the month.

Synopsis: I don't want this to be a spoiler for those of you who haven't read the first one, so let's just say that it continues the story begun in The Hunger Games. (Follow the link to see the synopsis I gave for it.)

What I thought? I was very worried that this would not measure up to the first book. It did though. It was fantastic. I was completely absorbed and caught up in this world again. Catching Fire was un-put-downable. It was intense and compelling. I can't wait for book 3. (Except I'm going to have to. I'm guessing it will be another year.) If you haven't read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for? If you have, you've probably already read Catching Fire (and if you haven't because you're worried it will let you down, don't. You're good.)

My Rating: ***** out of 5, This was such an easy choice. It was that good.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10. This is mostly for violence. It was not as violent as the first book and didn't have as many disturbing images, but it's still not for the younger readers out there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's better?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how literary or complex I want to make my story. Of course, visuals come to mind for me. Is it better to make the story intricate and decorative like this window,
exciting and commercial like this ferris wheel,
or simple and organic like this camellia.

Is one better than the others because of the type of image it is? Does one appeal to more people than the others? Hmmm.

Is one type of writing inherently better because it has tons of literary devices? Or is another because it appeals to a huge audience? If one appeals to a large group but has very little or no literary devices does that make it bad writing? I'm just sitting here wondering about the depths of my writing. Will I be judged harshly if I choose to make my writing less literary?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--learning the craft

Up for today: CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT by Orson Scott Card

Product Details

Why I bought it? I attended Card's writing class in the summer, and lots of students there had the book and kept referring to it thinking it was great.

Synopsis: This is one in a series of books on writing by different authors put out by Writer's Digest. Card goes into his theories about what makes characters compelling and the positives and negatives of different types of viewpoints.

What I thought? It was an excellent review of the course I took--more in depth with more examples. The thing that I especially liked about this book was how practical and down to earth it was. It has been incredibly helpful to me in evaluating what I'm doing right and wrong in my writing. The questions he tells us to ask ourselves have been invaluable in helping me make my work better. There were several times when I was reading a section on mistakes beginners make, and I saw my own work in his examples. In recognizing myself I could pinpoint some of my weaknesses. At least, I found the solutions along with the problems. So! Yea! Some of the examples are a bit dated, since it was written quite a few years ago, but they are still understandable (and I don't think it's just because I'm a bit older).

My daughter's thoughts--While I was reading it, Elizabeth kept looking at the book with longing. She'd ask, "You're still not finished with that?" I was taking my time, highlighting, reviewing, and processing/digesting. When I finished, I handed it over, and she jumped right in. She says it has been extremely helpful and is taking her time working through it just as I did. Her rating: 4-5 stars--she wouldn't commit, since she still hadn't finished when I asked.

My Rating: ***** out of 5, I went online to see what others thought for this one (I was afraid I might have been biased because I had taken his class), and on Amazon it has a 4 1/2 star average rating with 75 people weighing in. So there you have it. I suppose I'm not any more biased than other people.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, There's a little bit of language but not much and not strong words, and there are a few examples that are fairly racy but not explicit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bruschetta and a birthday

Saturday I finally made that Bruschetta from Julie and Julia. Here's the recipe I actually followed. Well mostly. The visuals of my steps looked just like hers. Amazing. It was incredibly delicious. The hubby was just as thrilled as I was. I didn't sauté the tomatoes or add the chunks of fresh mozzarella this time, but I think I will next time just to see what the difference is. I think part of the key is the different types of tomatoes. I especially liked the dark green looking one. I also tried it with 2 different kinds of bread. Regular French and Sourdough. They were each good in their own way. My husband liked the sourdough best. I was on the fence. I would try the sourdough and think, "Oh, I like this best," and then I'd try the french and think, "I don't know, maybe this one is better." Davin, this is very similar to yours, eh? 

Today my daughter who helps me with reviews on here sometimes is 15! It's very exciting and scary. She is getting her permit and has dedicated much of the last month to studying, etc., to make it happen. Watch out world! I hope my nerves hold up. Actually, she's very responsible, and her driver's ed teacher praised her tons. That makes me feel better about the whole thing. Whew!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Changing POV

My wrist is getting better slowly but surely. Yea!

Today, I thought I'd share a little about what's happening with my writing. I had originally written my story in 1st person, but as I've been learning more and more about the writing process and what works best for most stories, I've come to realize that this particular novel should be told in 3rd person. I've started over and am taking things from a 3rd person POV with the same POV character and only her (I considered having 2 POV characters but for now have decided against it), and it is making a big difference. 

I had my daughter read over what I have so far, and she says she likes it better. It's so nice to know that it's working. I'm so grateful for the advice that I have gotten about this in my class I took over the summer and the book I just read (I'll review it next week and talk a lot more about it.) and those of you who have chatted with me to help.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Tedium

You'll have to forgive me today. This will be brief. I have sprained my wrist and typing is a pain. Literally.

Up for today: THE MAGICIANS AND MRS. QUENT by Galen Beckett
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett: Book Cover
Why I bought it?  We were reading it for September's selection in my book club.

Synopsis:   It was really a combination of  Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist. It was set on an foreign planet that had days and nights of varying lengths in a society had early 19th century manners and conventions.

What I thought? Now, I'm one who loves a twist on Austen and Bronte. I've read a ton of them, and I had high hopes for this one. It sounded strange, but I figured it could be really cool.  The friend in the book club who suggested it had said it was great. As I read I kept thinking I was missing something. She had said it was slow starting and that it would pick up, so I waited for it to pick up. It did ever so slightly. It was slow starting. Slow developing and slow wrapping things up. Plus there were a lot of things that were never wrapped up. It's the first in a trilogy. Ugh! There were some neat twists, but I found the language (It was trying to sound like early 19th century prose.) pretty distracting and unclear at times. It was a real slog. Beckett was slow to get to almost every important point, and then he'd often make it again in a slow, round about way like someone telling someone else about it. Ugh! Again! The ideas for this story were interesting, but it was not a fun read for me. It could have been reduced in length by at least a third and been much better. 498 pages. It was only my determination to finish it that got me to the end. 

My rating: ** out of 5. Just barely. There were enough intriguing story points to keep it from the dreaded one star status. It just didn't cut it for me. The friend who recommended it didn't like it as well on second reading.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10. This is a book intended for grown ups, and it's pretty clean for an adult book. There are some violent things and a couple of references to rapes.

NB: We discovered in our book club that even though this is advertised as a debut novel, it really isn't. The actual author is Mark Anthony (and that's not Marc Anthony) who has already had several books published, but this book is a departure in genre and so he's taken a pen name for it, and this is the first book under this pen name.

Oh well, sorry. It wasn't that brief. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm ready to cook

I've been on a cooking jag ever since I saw the movie Julie and Julia on Saturday.
Y'all have to go see this one. I made my sweet husband go with me, and there was so much humor in it that he actually enjoyed it.
Meryl Streep is amazing as usual, 
 Amy Adams does a fantastic job too. In fact, the whole cast is great. 
Stanley Tucci too.
That night I tried to pick up Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the Barnes and Noble and was totally denied.
 Here's the real Julie with her book that was made into the movie. That one was there.

Apparently a lot of other people are having the same reaction to the movie. The BN was sold out. When I got home I ordered it on Amazon. I was supposed to get it on Tues., but, Ack!, when I was checking the tracking of it, there was a huge delay. The updated delivery date was the 10th. Wow! The whole country must be trying to get this book, but joy of all joys, it came yesterday! Yippee! 
I can now cook with Julia! Heehee! There's one big problem though. That colossal bruschetta that Julie makes at the beginning of the movie isn't going to be in the cookbook. I want the recipe for that! It's what started my mouth drooling sitting in the theater. It looks simple enough, but I want the details! Maybe I should google it. So I'm off to see what I can find. Bon appétit! And happy long weekend! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Tea anyone?

Up for today:  THREE CUPS OF TEA by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: Book Cover

Why I bought it? I had heard it recommended over and over. I had seen it at the book store a few times and almost gotten it. I was running errands with my daughter at Target and stopped by the books and finally grabbed it. The cover above is the one I got although I really like the other two covers I found. I included them so you could see. As most of you know, I'm a big fan of a good cover. The funny thing about this book to me is that I kept thinking it was a novel. I never actually read the blurb on the back (which I practically always do). For those that don't already know, it's not a novel at all.

Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin: Book Cover

Synopsis:  Mortenson was a climber in his younger years and made an attempt at K2. He got separated from his group and turned around. He failed to reach the summit. The altitude and cold were taking their toll, and he started feeling bad and tried to go back down to their last base camp area. He missed the path to it and ended up in a little village that changed the course of his life. They nursed him back to health, and before he left he promised to build them a school. He was not a wealthy man, so he had to figure out how to raise the money. This book shares Mortenson's amazing perseverance and charisma that has brought 55 (in 2006) schools to some of the poorest people in the world--in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a lot of ways he's fighting the war on terror with education.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: Book Cover

What I thought? I was blown away by all that Mortenson has accomplished--how dedicated he was to making it happen. He's a rare breed of person. He saw a need and has dedicated his life to filling that need. If only there were more people like him in the world! The author is actually Relin. He recounts Mortenson's story. There were times I was put off by his way of telling things, but the story is such a compelling one that I let a lot of that slide. A friend of mine gave up on it though, because she found it too slow moving. I didn't really have that problem. I wouldn't pass this book up for that. I would say, if you start getting bogged down, just skim to where things pick up again. Finding out what Mortenson has accomplished is worth it. It was quite an education into the world of Islam and the Taliban, etc., as well, which I think all Americans need. 

My Rating: **** out of 5 stars. It probably gets that many because of how much respect I now have for Mortenson and his compassion and triumphs.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, This is mostly for violent situations.